In Port-Au-Prince, A City Living Outdoors

A Haitian man nails a corrugated roof to a temporary structure i i

hide captionIn the Petionville neighborhood, a man nails a corrugated roof to a temporary structure above a makeshift camp for residents who lost their homes in the devastating earthquake.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
A Haitian man nails a corrugated roof to a temporary structure

In the Petionville neighborhood, a man nails a corrugated roof to a temporary structure above a makeshift camp for residents who lost their homes in the devastating earthquake.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Survivors are sleeping in nearly every open space in Port-au-Prince, fearful that even the buildings that withstood last week's earthquake could collapse in one of the frequent aftershocks.

One example is a small park on the edge of the city center, where several hundred people are camping on the pavement or in the dirt. A young woman who gives her name only as Mariyam sits on the curb with a cluster of other people who look worn out from more than a week of living in the open, amid the dust and smoke of the ruined city.

"I am sick," she says. "All of us are sick, and we are hungry, too. We've all caught colds. We're afraid. We don't know what may happen at any time."

Mariyam says it's dangerous here, too. "There are a lot of thieves, sneaking into people's houses. They're raping ladies. We don't know what to do."

There's an acrid stink of excrement in the air. When asked where people go to the bathroom, Mariyam points to a pair of sagging blue portable toilets a few yards away.

They're overflowing, she says, and people are forced to relieve themselves on the ground and in the streets.

Displaced Haitians have used curtains, blankets and tarps to create large tent cities. i i

hide captionDisplaced Haitians have used curtains, blankets and tarps to create large tent cities in Port-au-Prince.

Michael Laughlin/Sun-Sentinel via AP
Displaced Haitians have used curtains, blankets and tarps to create large tent cities.

Displaced Haitians have used curtains, blankets and tarps to create large tent cities in Port-au-Prince.

Michael Laughlin/Sun-Sentinel via AP

This is one of things health workers fear most: an outbreak of disease among people who already are weakened and stressed.

Across the city, in the district called Delmas, people have stretched tarps in side streets and yards, many with bedsheet banners that read, in English: We need help, food and medicine.

Some people have it a little better. The sound of a hymn drifts from the door of the Tabernacle du Plein Evangile — The Full Gospel Tabernacle. The tin-roofed building survived the earthquake, and it's now sheltering its congregation.

There are about 60 people in the church, including women tending babies and a few heavily bandaged children.

The Rev. Jean Nerva Mondestine says more than 400 people come to sleep here each night, but he doesn't have food for them, or medical care. He says this street is dangerous at night, and the tabernacle is unguarded.

"There is no security, but we are not afraid," the pastor says. "We believe in God. We rely on God for our security."

Even for those who have a roof over their heads, like Mondestine's congregation, life is overcrowded, dirty and unhealthy.

It remains to be seen whether it's possible to move hundreds of thousands of people out of the city, but if it is, many people on the streets may see it as a chance to survive.

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