Contrasting Relief Camps Showcase Haiti Challenges One built by the Haitian government is clean, new, orderly and completely empty. The other is the largest informal settlement in the city. It has turned into a bustling slum that reeks of raw sewage and is overflowing with people.
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Contrasting Relief Camps Showcase Haiti Challenges

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Contrasting Relief Camps Showcase Haiti Challenges

Contrasting Relief Camps Showcase Haiti Challenges

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An update now on the challenges facing Haiti in the aftermath of that January earthquake. More than a million people are still homeless. In the shattered capital of Port-au-Prince, two camps for earthquake survivors sit side-by-side and they could not be more different. One camp built by the Haitian government is in great shape but has been empty for more than a month. Right across the street is the other camp, which is an overcrowded slum.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports.

JASON BEAUBIEN: This is the tale of two camps: one planned, one spontaneous; one controlled by the Haitian government, one run by international relief agencies; one clean, new and empty, the other reeking of raw sewage and overflowing with people - and they sit right next to one another.

After the quake, tens of thousands of people flooded onto the tarmac of the defunct military airport in the capital. The camp grew rapidly into a bustling, squalid slum. People hastily erected makeshift shacks. Shops have sprung up. Doctors Without Borders trucks in water every day. There's a school in a tent. The U.S. military laid down 5,000 cubic yards of gravel to fill the muddy, mosquito-infested areas.

Mr. JOHN CINDRIC: I'm not a panic merchant. This is a good camp. This is a good camp.

BEAUBIEN: John Cindric, with the American Refugee Committee, became the manager of the old military airport camp on May 1st. He said the international aid agencies, along with the residents, are slowly and steadily addressing the challenges facing this settlement.

But Cindric adds that having 50,000 people all of a sudden move onto an area where there's no basic services creates a precarious situation.

Mr. CINDRIC: If suddenly we get an outbreak of, say, bacillary dysentery or something like that, everything then falls apart and it gets worse. If suddenly our water supply stops for some reason, that can go wrong. Things start, then, piling up. The refuse starts collecting. We try our best, but it can still fall apart if certain things go wrong.

Sixty-one-year-old Mecene Eugene is one of the 50,000 residents. He shares a shelter made of sticks, twine and orange tarps with his six children. Eugene lost his house and shop in the quake. He also injured his left leg, which still hasn't healed. He says this camp is hell.

Mr. MECENE EUGENE: (Through translator) I tell you, the living conditions are extremely bad. If you take a look inside my tent, you'll see a piece of carpet that I'm sleeping in. It would break your heart to see it. And if you look into anybody else's tent, you'll find the same situation.

BEAUBIEN: When it rains, his roof leaks. Food distributions, if they happen at all, are chaotic. The toilets are overflowing with sewage to the point that Eugene says he can't even use them.

Just across the street, along with the big white tents, there are rows of brand new toilets that have never been used, showers also untouched.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

BEAUBIEN: The so-called Flagpole camp sits on a gentle slope that's been bulldozed and leveled with gravel. More than 500 canvas tents with USAID tarps draped over them are arranged in long, straight lines. The only people in the camp, however, are security guards, including Louis Juste Giteau.

Giteau says they've got orders to keep everyone else out.

Mr. LOUIS JUSTE GITEAU (Security Guard): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: The people are so eager to move here, Giteau says. They want to move here. But they can't be moving here without a proper order from the government, because they can kick them out in an ugly way.

During this crisis in Haiti, the International Organization for Migration has been the lead agency in moving people from informal settlements into planned tent cities. According to the IOM, the Flagpole camp was set aside by the Haitian government for quake victims who are in a park next to the National Palace.

But for some reason, none of them ever moved here. Officials at IOM and other aid agencies say that this is a Haitian government project, and it's up to the Haitian government to decide who moves in and when. The tents have been sitting untended for so long that some of them have collapsed. Others are filled with stagnant rainwater.

(Soundbite of door opening)

BEAUBIEN: Giteau opens the door to one of the virgin toilets. Unlike the overflowing, single-hole outhouses across the street, these ones even have porcelain bowls.

He says people would love to use these facilities, but it's his job to not let them.

It's also unclear exactly which agency within the Haitian government controls this camp. The guards say it's the Interior Ministry, but officials there referred NPR to the Shelter Commission. Officials with the Shelter Commission were not immediately available to comment on why this camp has sat empty for more than six weeks.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Haitians ride out the pounding nightly rains under little more than a plastic tarp.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

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