Monday it will be six months since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, and there’s been little improvement for the people most severely affected. In fact, for many, the situation has gotten even worse.
CNN reports that 1.5 million people remain homeless, living in some 1,300 tent camps.
Many are on private property and the crisis is pitting landowners against the desperate.At another tent camp pitched on private property, Aline Masselin washes clothes by hand in a plastic basin that sits on a dirt floor. She has lived in this camp since the night of the quake. Her daughter, Alexandra, was born here just weeks later.
Recently, a judge showed up at the site, warning the homeless it was time to go and that the owner was fed up. They missed the deadline to leave, and still they are waiting without a place to go. At a nearby camp, another landowner successfully evicted a group of homeless.
Canada.com, for its part, reports that, of more than $5 billion pledged by international donors to aid in the recovery, just two per cent has been delivered.
Plans by President Rene Preval to move tens of thousands of displaced Haitians into new semi-permanent communities have foundered due to myriad factors — from the government’s lack of capacity, to land disputes to resurgent corruption.
An interim reconstruction commission headed by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive held its first meeting only in June.
They report the same conflict with private landowners.
Several hundred families at Automeca [a camp off the main road to the airport, so named because it sprang up on land once occupied by car dealerships] agreed to leave after the landowner offered them $200. The newly-vacant land is now being cleared for conversion into a parking lot and gas station.
The problem is many camp residents who are forced to move have nowhere better to go.
“The landlord said if they don’t move, he will come with a bulldozer,” Innocente says.
“We can’t do anything because the landlord is rich. He can buy anyone.”
Mark Schuller does describe some signs of hope, such as “uniformed schoolchildren once again walking to and from school” and there is more electricity due to the clearing of some rubble. However, he also reports that life in the camps has gotten worse.
Three days and nights in a row, it has rained very heavily. We’re in the middle of the summer rainy season, with heavy rains and winds buffeting the deforested mountains and washing away the mounds of rubble not picked up for lack of dump trucks (these large piles are also the cause of random and severe blokis — traffic jams).
At one particular camp, St. Louis de Gonzague, half of the people were forced out in April, to accommodate the school’s reopening. The school penned in a smaller area with an eight-foot chain link fence so it was still crowded. The air was thick and heavy, smelling of mud and swarming with flies. There was simply no way not to get your shoes full of mud. Large pools of water forced people to wait for people to pass by. This was on the main corridor, some two meters wide. By the tents the mud was everywhere. The heavy rain and wind have clearly taken their toll on many of the tents. Many of them were ripped from the bottom up, held together by a patchwork of tape. Others were stained halfway up or more with mud. Some had fallen so far into the mud that they were no longer usable.
Also since April, the government decreed the end of emergency food aid. So what little people received has vanished. Consequently, there were paltry signs of economic activity. A few timachann lined the central alleyway in the camp, but they were selling the cheapest items imaginable: crackers, cookies, hard candy, etc.
In other words, Haiti 6 months after the earthquake has gone back to being the Haiti of extreme inequality, ruled for the benefit of the few at the expense of the majority. Apparently, all that has changed is that hundreds of thousands of victims of the earthquake are now buried and millions of survivors are doing what they can to keep going, housed in tents without jobs or food—until they’re evicted by the landowners.