NPR logo

In Port-Au-Prince, A City Living Outdoors

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In Port-Au-Prince, A City Living Outdoors

Latin America

In Port-Au-Prince, A City Living Outdoors

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne. The Haitian government is planning a massive relocation of earthquake victims to camps outside the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince. Its aimed at staving off disease and it could involve as many as 400,000 people. Most of them are now living in squalid, makeshift shelters around the city. NPRs Corey Flintoff has this look at some of the places people are taking shelter.

COREY FLINTOFF: Survivors are sleeping in nearly every open space in the city, fearful that even the buildings that withstood last week's earthquake could collapse in one of the frequent aftershocks.

This 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 by more than a week of living in the open, amid the dust and smoke of the ruined city. She speaks through an interpreter.

MARIYAM: (Through translator) I am sick. All of us are sick, and we are hungry too. There is (unintelligible) influenza. We've got - catch cold. We are afraid. We don't know what may happen at any time.

FLINTOFF: Is it dangerous here? I mean, have you seen any shootings? Have you seen anybody stealing, looting? Things like that?

MARIYAM: Yes. Yes.

FLINTOFF: What have you seen?

MARIYAM: (Through translator) There are a lot of thieves. They are sneaking into people's house. There are raping ladies. We are afraid. We don't know what to do.

FLINTOFF: 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.

She says the toilets are overflowing and people are forced to relieve themselves on the ground or in the streets. This could cause one of things health workers fear most - an outbreak of disease among people who are already weakened and stressed.

Food is beginning to show up for sale on the street, but few who shelter here can afford it.

(Soundbite of horn honking)

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

(Soundbite of singing)

FLINTOFF: But some people have it a little better. The tin-roofed Tabernacle du Plein Evangile the Full Gospel Tabernacle - 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.

Pastor JEAN NERVA MONDESTINE (Tabernacle du Plein Evangile): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Pastor Jean Nerva Mondestine says that 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.

Pastor MONDESTINE: (Through translator) No, there is no security, but we are not afraid. We believe in God. We rely on God for our security.

FLINTOFF: Even for those who, like Mondestines congregation, have a roof over their heads, life is overcrowded, dirty and unhealthy.

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

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

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.