Life Is Still Out Of Place For Haitians
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.
Four months after the massive earthquake in Haiti, the cleanup continues. Some two million people are still displaced. Most of them now live in camps or temporary shelters in the capitol, Port-au-Prince.
NPR's Jason Beaubien has been traveling through areas of the country damaged by the quake and he joins us. Jason, whats the state of the recovery effort now?
JASON BEAUBIEN: Things really feel like they're sort of moving into a different phase now. That it's gotten past just trying to make sure that everybody has got food and shelter and water and toilets. And now, there seems to be more of the systematic focus on demolishing so many of the buildings that were damaged and clearing the rubble out so that rebuilding can start.
HANSEN: Humanitarian groups have said that the top priority is shelter, especially with the rainy season coming. But hundreds of thousands of people are stilling living in these makeshift camps. Whats happening?
BEAUBIEN: Yeah. The makeshift camps, they're still here. They're all across Port-au-Prince. As a matter of fact, they're all across sort of this while area that was hit by the quake. But the camps are not as crowded as they used to be. Some people are moving back to their houses. Houses have been inspected. People have been told that it's safe to go into some of them or that they're capable of fixing them up. And other people have just moved back onto the property where their house used to be. So the camps dont feel quite as tense, quite as packed as they did before.
There are also some new camps that have been setup by the international community on the outskirts of the capitol. And while these camps are safe -they're much safer than where a lot of people were living before, a lot of the people that I've talked to said these camps are really problematic. They're way out of town, about an hour and a half by bus.
One of the camps, Ca-Ira, it really looks like a sci-fi experiment on the Moon. It's set in this barren landscape. It's just - they bulldozed this large plain and covered it in gravel. There's no vegetation anywhere around it. And youve got these half-domed tents just - about a thousand of them, 5,000 people living out there. Some people say it's a form of Hell. In the middle of the day, it's really hot, there's no shade. People dont have jobs, so far there's no school out there. People say they're just being warehoused.
And you have to compare this to some people who were living in really life-threatening conditions before, so there's this balance but some people are already saying just after a couple of weeks that they're not sure whether they're going to stay in some of these new camps.
HANSEN: Youve been traveling beyond the capitol of Port-au-Prince. Where did you go?
BEAUBIEN: I went down to Leogane, which is right near the epicenter of the quake and then I also went to Jacmel, which is on the south coast.
HANSEN: What are the conditions like there?
BEAUBIEN: Well, Leogane was incredibly hard hit - 80 to 90 percent of the buildings were destroyed there. You know, it still looks like a war zone. It looks like just a bomb went off and crumpled the city. Jacmel, on the south coast, was also very hard hit. A lot of the old historical buildings there were really severely damaged.
But there's a sense in Jacmel that things are moving forward, that theyve cleaned up most of the rubble out of the streets. You know, traffic is back to being crazy and chaotic and there's commerce going on, and the kids are going to school - kids in school uniforms. And thats also happening in Port-au-Prince - youve got the schools are back and open.
So there's this feeling that this emergency, this humanitarian catastrophe really is going into a different phase now, that it's going into a cleanup phase.
I was talking with Marc Young. He's on Hands On Disaster Response and theyve got a group of volunteers in Leogane. Theyve been clearing the rubble off people's properties so that they can at least get a tent onto their own land. His groups been here almost four months, and he says things are changing.
Mr. MARC YOUNG (International Operations Director, Hands On Disaster): There is progress. But with the scale of it, it's just huge. It's going to take so long for Leogane and Haiti to recover from this disaster. The need will go on for years and years.
BEAUBIEN: And in the capitol, you're also seeing a much more organized push to knock down these teetering buildings and to clear the rubble out. And thats going on, you know, all across the city.
HANSEN: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Jason, thank you.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.
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.