Haitians Helping Haitians In Port-Au-Prince Slum

The hillside Port-au-Prince slum of Carrefour Feuille has gone from poor to destitute. People there say they've seen no help from their government or from the outside. Residents of the slum have organized rescue efforts, first aid and body removal as best they can. They rely on donations from local people.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.

For more than a week now, we've been watching the struggle to get aid to Haiti amid a nearly unfathomable devastation and dazed survivors. In some neighborhoods, the chaos had led to looting, in others, people are organizing to help each other.

NPRs Corey Flintoff is in Port-au-Prince, and he found his way back to a slum that he visited last year when times were better.

COREY FLINTOFF: Much of Carrefour Feuilles was always desperately poor, but people seemed to get by, eking out a living from small jobs, selling goods on the street and remittances from relatives working abroad. Carrefour Feuilles has gone from poor to destitute, its hillsides ragged with white gashes of rubble that used to be houses. People here say they've seen no help from their government or from the outside, but bodies have been removed, burned or buried, injured people have been delivered to hospitals, and homeless survivors have been sheltered under makeshift tarps. Besie Wilson(ph) greets visitors in a cave-like storefront pressed up against the rocky hillside.

Mr. BESIE WILSON: My name is Besie. (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He calls himself the coordinator general of a ad-hoc aid organization, the impressive sounding Mission to Help in the Emergency. Wilson says his group organized rescue efforts, first aid and body removal as best it could, relying on donations from local people.

Mr. WILSON: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He shows his meager store of medical supplies, a cardboard carton with two rolls of gauze bandages and a dozen or so containers of over-the-counter medicines. There is more, he says: People being nursed, people being sheltered. Wilson leads the way up a steep track, pointing to the jumbles of cinderblocks and concrete that used to be houses. The air smells of rot.

Mr. WILSON: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Wilson says there are a lot of corpses decaying in the rubble that searchers were unable to extract. That would take heavy equipment, and its hard to imagine how digging machines could even make their way up a precarious path that drops away on one side into a steep ravine.

Mr. WILSON: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Further up the road, a woman sits with one swollen leg propped on a chair. Flies buzz over the stained gauze that covers a wound. This is an interpreter.

Unidentified Man #1: Her house fell upon her. Her legs was broken by the bricks. Now we are taking care of them by our own means.

FLINTOFF: Without any outside help. Still further, people cluster on thin blankets on the dusty road, shaded by a tarp that Wilson says his group provided.

Mr. WILSON: (Through translator) People have been showing us open sores and lacerations from being caught underneath the rubble or being caught in the collapse of their houses.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, I need help for her. Because she's very, very sick. She needs care. She needs care, medical.

FLINTOFF: One man is agitated and insistent. His young wife is propped on the ground in the arms of an older woman. She has a deep contusion on her thigh, raw and uncovered, the leg swelling like sausage to below her knee. What are you going to do about it, he asks.

Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Wilson tries to calm the situation, telling the man that the organization he leads could have his wife carried down to the grounds of the general hospital on a stretcher.

Mr. WILSON: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: On the way back down the hillside, Wilson repeats over and over his plea for international help, but dont give it to the Haitian government, he insists.

Mr. WILSON: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Wilson says, give it to the neighborhood groups that are close to the problem. For him, as for many Haitians, the national government is gone, and nothing but foreign assistance and neighborhood unity can ever put things right.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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