Although the earthquake happened months ago, for many, little has changed since January.
At Place Pigeon, a neglected refugee camp constructed after the earthquakes of January 12, 2010, the expectations of families housed in this temporary shelter remain the same. Their situation hasn’t changed, and every family maintains their own shelter as best they can. It’s as if the earthquake just happened yesterday in terms of the quality of life for these people. This camp reflects a complete absence of planning or help from authority figures concerning how to organize this poor area.
A committee hasn’t emerged to run the camp, despite the unstable situation, where families search for a way to adapt, especially those without a shelter.
In terms of sanitation, only water is always available. Everyone bathes publicly because of the unhygienic situation of the showers that the committee had installed. The gathering of garbage is one of the biggest problems families confront. Each family clears out their household garbage and cleans only their own area.
After the rain, it’s impossible to walk around the camp due to the mud. And even when it doesn’t rain, there are still swampy areas of stagnant water near the showers that had been put up, which expose the refugees to illness.
The problem of toilets was resolved with the JEDCO toilets installed by ACF (Action Against Hunger), the institution with the most visible presence on the Place Pigeon. It organizes meetings for awareness raising for women and children, teaching them how to take precautions and what to do remain in good health and avoid illness caused by the lack of hygiene.
During the last few weeks, IOM (International Organization for Migration) took a census at Champ du Mars, including Place Pigeon, by giving each family an identification card. With this card, families at the camp took part in a distribution. The families that were registered received a hygiene kit from CRS (Catholic Relief Service), a sack of wheat from USAID, flour, and beans. Families showed their contentment by saying that this was the first time that they had received food aid since they’d been living in the camp.
Safety and security
In terms of security, this is one of the camps at Champ du Mars that has a bad reputation for its lack of safety. Often escapees frequent the Place Pigeon, which attracts attention of National Police officers. Almost every night, the police come to the camp and arrest alleged criminals.
After International Women’s Day on March 8, a young man was arrested at the camp for attempted rape on March 10, 2010.
Almost every night, the police arrest two or three young men. The young women here are subjected to ill treatment from their husbands or partners. They are left vulnerable to all forms of violence: physical, sexual, psychological, etc. Because of this, some of them are even more worried about their deplorable situation.
Tuesday March 23, 2010, more than forty people were arrested, among them, one young girl. Most of them were escaped prisoners from the National Prison. Those who weren’t escapees or problem causers were released, about five of them. From then on, people noticed young men coming and going around the camp.
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.