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Haiti: No easy answer

04 Apr 2011

Thousands of people in Haiti are still living in tents and under tarpaulins, one year after the earthquake hit.Election results in Haiti are due out today. For whoever wins there will be no easy answer.

Unemployment is at 80%. For the hundreds of thousands of families still living in cramped camps over a year after the earthquake destroyed their homes, the situation is tough. 

Demand for change

In Ste Rose camp, temporary shelters the size of family tents are packed together, some on sandbags or cement blocks, others straight on the earth.

They have kitchens made of blue and white tarpaulins with open fires for cooking. When the rains come, everything must get soaked.

Narrow alleyways zig zag through the camp, sometimes one person wide, sometimes opening out with space for residents to sit on low stools and chat. Washing lines criss-cross open spaces and large blue plastic bowls are everywhere, full of soapy water.  

There is little do and much demand for education and change.

"The conditions are not human"

Madame Ferdinand, president of the Ste Rose older people's association, said of the conditions in the camps: "The conditions are not human - we need real homes so we can start rebuilding our lives."

Older residents formed the association to look out for one another and ensure the sick get to hospital but there is a limit to what they can do. They tried to pool resources to set up a loan scheme but nobody has any money.

Now they want to start a community kitchen and have joined together with other groups in and outside the camps.

Mobile at 68

Gertha Antoine got her first phone on Saturday, one of 4,500 distributed by HelpAge to older people living in the camps. The phones are a way to distribute a small monthly payment and connect with friends and family. 

Gertha will use her first instalment to pay off debts for food and then buy some roasted peanuts to sell on the street for a profit.

"I will make sure I know how to use my phone and keep control of my money," she said. "My grandchildren use the phone to make calls and listen to music. They tune me into the radio too." 

She continued: "But our main problem is shelter. I voted in the elections, all Haitians must do. It's our civil right. I hope the new government can improve things."

Read more about the work we do in Haiti.

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Jane Scobie
Country: UK
Job title: Head of Network Development

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.