A Million Haitians Dying Slowly by Bill Quigley, Nine Months After the Quake -- A Million Haitians Slowly Dying
Monday, October 11, 2010
"If it gets any worse," said Wilda, a homeless Haitian mother, "we're not going to survive." Mothers and grandmothers surrounding her nodded solemnly.
We are in a broiling "tent" with a group of women trying to raise their families in a public park. Around the back of the Haitian National Palace, the park hosts a regal statute of Alexandre Petion in its middle. It is now home to five thousand people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake.
Nine months after the quake, over a million people are still homeless in Haiti.
Haiti looks like the quake could have been last month. I visited Port au Prince shortly after the quake and much of the destruction then looks the same nine months later.
The Associated Press reports only two percent of the rubble has been removed and only 13,000 temporary shelters have been constructed. Not a single cent of the US aid pledged for rebuilding has arrived in Haiti. In the last few days the US pledged it would put up 10% of the billion dollars in reconstruction aid promised. Only 15 percent of the aid pledged by countries and organizations around the world has reached the country so far.
With other human rights advocates from CCR, MADRE, CUNY Law School, BAI and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, I am huddled under faded gray tarps stamped US Aid. Blue tarps staked into the ground as walls. This is not even the hot season but the weather reports the heat index is 115.
The floor is bare dirt, soft from a recent rain. Our guide works with a vibrant grassroots women's organization, KOFAVIV, which is working with women in many camps, and she encourages residents to tell us their stories.
Anne has seven children. She would really love to have a tent. She and her family live on a small plot of dirt eight feet by eight feet. Sheets are tied to pieces of wood to keep out the sun. Plastic sheeting covers the ground. When it rains everything they have is soaked. She begs every day for food.
Therese has three children, 12, 11, and 9. She has lived in the camps since the quake. A few weeks ago when she went to get a bucket of water, some men grabbed her and raped her. Before the quake she worked as a street vendor but has no money to buy supplies to sell. She prays all day every day for help.