In the weeks and months after the earthquake in Haiti, the lives of those living in the refugee camps are hard and painful.
After the earthquake on January 12, 2010, which had a 7.3 rating on the Richter scale, many survivors and victims have taken refuge on la Place de la Paix, commonly called the Place Pigeon. Since then, this place has become their living space, until further notice.
The violent earthquake and its almost fifty aftershocks have caused loss of human life, trauma, and damage in neighboring areas of the Place. There is a great need for families to find shelters to settle down so that they can protect themselves against any unexpected aftershocks.
Looking for a makeshift shelter
In the search for a makeshift shelter, each family, with a few sheets, looks for a place in the refugee camp to take shelter and meet their survival needs. Every family must dig holes and put wooden posts into the ground to make a so called shelter or house. To protect against the sun, the head of the family digs holes in the ground for the wooden posts on which they hang four sheets (as walls) and another sheet for a roof.
There are many needs: water, physiological needs, a place to bathe. People are doing all they can to meet these needs.
For water, during the first few days after the earthquake, people returned to the Montalais road, a neighboring road, to find this precious liquid in houses, from water pipes with little or no damage, that can be distributed to others. A little while later, ACF International News installed a water tank on the Place Pigeon to meet this need.
In terms of physiological needs, each family monitors their little tent to make sure that no one enters it to relieve themselves. In fact, at times, some people relieve themselves in these “bathrooms” when no one else is around.
Awareness campaigns and education
In addition, as awareness is raised and people become informed about how to prevent illness caused by lack of hygiene, the refugees are starting to pick up the garbage. Each family does this, using a little sack near their cloth tent. No one knows how people are relieving themselves. Each family tries to find their own way to take care of their physiological needs.
Forming a committee
A committee with seven members has formed. This committee has aims to organize and address the needs of the Place Pigeon, in the situation where an institution voluntarily provides help, whatever kind it is. The committee has had showers built from wood or plastic whose origin they’re unaware of. These showers are not comfortable or convenient. Few people use them.
The committee is organizing a religious service every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, at 5 PM. The people of Place Pigeon are attending half halfheartedly.
In the refugee camp, most people are youths or children. There are even newborns or babies still under six months. Many small houses or cloth tents are inhabited by young girls or boys living together, exposed to all kind of inappropriate behavior.
More than a month after the earthquake, there are rarely authority figures present.
This blog post was originally written in French by the writer Carine Exantus, a student living in a refugee camp in Haiti. It was translated into English by the Conversations for a Better World team.
Born in Port-au-Prince January 20, 1988, Carine Exantus is a student at the State University of Haiti, at the Faculty of Human Sciences. A young student who's been at FASCH since October, she has chosen to study social communication in her third year. In terms of early education, she has a diploma from the Ecole Mere Louise which she attended from 1994-2000. She received her Baccalaureate 1 and 2 in 2006 and 2007, respectively, from the the College Marie Anne where she did her secondary studies. She did an apprenticeship in English at the Wonderful Institute. Since the earthquakes of January 12, 2010, her house was destroyed and she lost two family members. She has taken refuge with the rest of her family, not far from Place Pigeon. Since that night, she and her family have been living in the refugee camp closest to her former residence.