June 7, 2010

Finding a new home after Haiti quake

By |7 June 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier “For the past three months there’ve been 16 people sitting down to eat every evening,” says Sébien Danbrevil. Up to 600,000 people fled Port-au-Prince for outlying areas following Haiti’s 12th January earthquake. For months after the disaster, Caritas has been helping people in the Nippes area to settle into their new lives. Like many people in the village of Fond de Nègres in southern Haiti, Sébien has seen his household double since the earthquake. Over 33,000 have taken refuge in this rural coastal region creating problems for the villages which were themselves hard hit by the earthquake. In Nippes, over 44,000 were affected by the earthquake and 20 percent of houses were rendered uninhabitable. It made life even tougher and more precarious for the people of Nippes, many of whom just managed to scrape by as fishermen and farmers before the earthquake. “We manage to get by,” says Mr Danbrevil, “but [...]

May 24, 2010

The forgotten ones in Haiti

By |24 May 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier In Port-au-Prince there are a number of neighbourhoods which aren’t considered a priority but which were hard hit by the earthquake.Caritas is working in these communities At first appearances, Sibert seems to have stood up well to Haiti’s January 12th earthquake. There’s little damage in this almost rural neighbourhood in the north of Port-au-Prince and most of the houses are still standing. But four months after the earthquake, life is harder than ever for the people living there. Despite appearances, 50 percent of Sibert’s houses are uninhabitable and 20 percent were completely destroyed. Neither completely destroyed, and yet not totally untouched, Sibert is one of the many areas in the capital where the destruction wasn’t bad enough for aid to continue. It’s a recurrent problem in the city where aid agencies concentrate their efforts on the worst effected zones, to the detriment of those not deemed [...]

First signs of reconstruction in Haiti

By |19 May 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier As the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince becomes ever more challenging ahead of the rainy season, Caritas starts setting up temporary shelter in rural areas. Bolivar Tasic is resting. The burning sun at midday is wearing her out. Sitting in the shade of the only tree on her small patch of land, she curiously watches the engineers who have been working all morning to finish her new house. “Great, I will finally have a place where to put my belongings and those of my two sons,” says Bolivar. She points to some kitchen utensils, neatly aligned in the middle of the rubble. Like most inhabitants of the small rural town Haute Lompré, located in the heights of Léogàne west of Port-au-Prince, Bolivar has been seriously affected by the 12 January earthquake in Haiti. Her little house and the small land parcel she and her husband used [...]

Back to school in Haiti

By |14 May 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier Seated on a little bench in the shade of the large tarpaulins that are used as class rooms on her former school playground, Kethia Phélizaire is straightening the creases on her skirt and brushing of dust from her sandals with great care. “I need to take good care of my school uniform, it is new. If I want to go to school, I need to look after it,” says the 14-year-old. Her hands are resting on her textbook. Kethia is a student at Soleil Quatre, a school run by Salesian priests in the heart of Cité Soleil. Most children cannot go back to school yet in Haiti’s Cité Soleil, the largest slum in Latin America, but she is lucky, her school reopened at the beginning of April. Kethia said she “really wanted to come back all this time”. A few days ago, she finally got to meet up with her [...]

Léogàne needs to keep its health clinics

By |14 May 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier As many humanitarian organizations have started to withdraw their temporary medical units from the city of Léogàne, about 50 km from the capital Port-au-Prince, Caritas health centres are needed more than ever. 90% of the city was destroyed in the earthquake. Caritas provided emergency treatment during the first weeks after the disaster. Now, people mainly need basic care. Most of them couldn’t afford it even before the earthquake. It is the end of the day at the small health centre of Çaira, a neighbourhood close to the city centre of Léogàne. The last patients are going home. Nurses, the doctor on call and the staff are getting ready to close the centre’s doors and prepare their weekly briefing. “This week was much busier than the previous ones,” says Valérie Chadic, the director of the centre. “Over the last day, patients have just been pouring in and it doesn’t look like that [...]

Children’s laughter returns to Haiti

By |14 May 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier in Haiti “The children’s laughter just changes the atmosphere, it is the most therapeutic thing in the world ! Since we started with activities for the little ones, things have really changed around here,” says David Valeus. He has a ball in one hand and a paintbrush in the other one. Life is coming back to the camps where 600,000 people have found shelter since the 12 January earthquake in Haiti. It has been as important for many survivors to recreate a normal social atmosphere in the camps as it has been to receive basic livelihoods and services. This can be seen in the “Zamis Timouns” (the children’s friends) centres for children. David Valeus has been in charge of the programmes for children in the Bureau des Mines camp since its opening in March. Now, he spends most of his time running after his daily young visitors. He looks a bit [...]

April 30, 2010

Haitians making a living through cash-for-work

By |30 April 2010|

Many Haitians have been left jobless after the dramatic quake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12, claiming the lives of over 225,000 people. Two months after the event, employment is one of the most pressing issues in Haiti. Cash-for-work programmes remain the most significant sources of income in a country where up to 70 percent of the population was unemployed before the quake. Since January, Caritas is supporting the temporary employment of scores of Haitians. “I need money! My family needs money! I am a trained nurse and paradoxical as it may seem in a country where so many people need medical assistance, it’s impossible for me to find a job,” explains Belonise Edouard, 37. “I have sent dozens of CVs but never got any answer. Cash-for-work is my only option right now. I have children to feed!” adds the mother of three. Belonise was enrolled in Caritas cash-for-work programmes on [...]

Graffiti for change in Haiti

By |30 April 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier Graffiti artist Jerry has been covering the walls of Haiti’s relief camps with his works of art. His objective is tough is to encourage the Haitians to apply basic hygiene principles. “I am spraying for change. It is my mission to talk to the Haitian people,” says Jerry. He has a spray can in his hand and is looking at a wall he is covering with colorful graffiti. In the blazing sun, the young street artist’s forehead is covered with sweat. Restless, he is drawing one grinning character after another, all of them with impeccable clean hands, on the surrounding wall of the relief camp in Nazon. 5,000 people have found shelter in this camp since the earthquake. In this remote site where humanitarian aid has barely started to arrive, people are curious and enthusiastic about the artist’s performance. “It’s Jerry, it’s him, it’s Jerry, that is what he looks like!” [...]

Helping children in Haiti rebuild their lives

By |30 April 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier, Communications Officer in Haiti Protecting children remains a priority after the 12 January earthquake in Haiti. Four out of ten people are under 14 years old. The disaster threatens a child population that was already very vulnerable before the disaster. Caritas child protection staff reach more than 2,000 children with counselling in five locations in Bureau des Mines, Solino and Pétionville Club camps. Counselling has been set up to help children and give them back some normality in their lives. “After an incident as traumatizing as this earthquake, it is essential to offer counselling to the children,” said Caritas counsellor Joseph Vilton. He worked as a psychologist in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake, and is now working in the children centres Caritas set up in different relief camps in Port-au-Prince. The symptoms can be acute stress, nightmares, emotional distress, behavioural disorders or attention deficits. Specialists believe that it is urgent to [...]

March 31, 2010

Resettling earthquake survivors in Haiti

By |31 March 2010|

Following Haiti’s earthquake in January 1.3 million people are homeless. They are spread across 200 camps and they live in desperately precarious situations. As the rainy season arrives it is essential to resettle these vulnerable people.  “These tents are spacious! At least we’ll stay dry tonight. But we’re so far from the centre of the city...” says Franz Altidor. Along with his mother, brother and sister, Franz is one of the many homeless who are taking their chances on the windy plains of La Corail. This is where people have been sent from camps in Port-au-Prince which are at risk of flooding. Holding his travel bag in his hands, teenage Franz takes in the scene. There is a UN tractor flattening out the ground, helicopters come and go overhead and rows of latrines poke out from the rock and sand. Over 7,500 people will come to live at La Corail over the [...]

Haiti between emergency and reconstruction

By |31 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier Since the 12 January earthquake, emergency aid was centred on the Port-au-Prince area, often at the expense of rural regions close to the capital that were also very hard-hit by the disaster. At a time when everybody talks about reconstruction, emergency issues still need to be addressed.  With her hands full of dishes, a woman is trying to make her way through piles of rubble and iron pieces on the ground. She puts them down on a batch of stones, already burning hot in the morning because of the sun. It is her improvised shelf in the middle of the ruins that used to be her house. Next to that are an old pan and some cutlery, the only things she has left from her kitchen. In between linen and clothes, a family is living on the muddy ground under a piece of cloth as shelter. Apart from that, [...]

Haiti two months later: shelter key concern

By |26 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier, Caritas Communications Officer, Port-au-Prince Two months after a massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, leaving over 200,000 people dead, shelter for the displaced has become a major issue in Haiti. Caritas focuses on the distribution of emergency shelter kits and works on relocating relief camps out of the capital. “Finally a tarpaulin to cover the house ! Tonight, our family will get better sleep,” said Mimose Petit. She holds firmly onto the orange and silver plastic tarpaulin she just received from Caritas. She tries to attach it on the wooden structure that gives her shelter, her “house” as she calls it. “However, we do not have anything to cover the floor. So when it starts to rain, as it did last night, the water comes in and floods the entire place”, she said. Desperate, she points to the pile of clothes that is barely getting dry on a tent close by. Mimose has been [...]

First torrential rains blocking emergency aid in Haiti

By |26 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier “Mud, mud, mud! There is mud everywhere! This place is a big mess,“ says Guylaine. Her feet are covered with mud. The rain has softened up the earth. With a dazed look, the old woman stares at what is left of her shelter, that was made of a pile of old clothes and sheets. Now, they are on the ground, in dirty water puddles that have formed all over the Pétionville Club Camp. First torrential rains have struck Port-au-Prince in the night of March 18, flooding roads, dwellings, buildings and most of all, the many makeshift camps around the city. Since the earthquake, the capital has not seen this type of bad weather very often. The Pétionville Club is a huge golf course where almost 40,000 displaced people settled in an overcrowded makeshift camp after the earthquake. The situation in the camp is critical. It is particularly ill-adapted [...]

Haiti’s regions struggling to cope with displaced people

By |23 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier More than 600,000 people have fled the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in search of shelter, food and solidarity after an earthquake devastated the city on January 12. The affected regions are struggling to cope with the massive arrival of refugees. In the small coastal town of Jérémie in the south of the island, the situation is particularly bad. Jérémie’s inhabitants are worried. “Look at this house. It has two rooms and a dozen people have to live here. It’s been like this for the last two months and very frankly, I don’t know how we can continue to feed everybody!” complains Willine Janvier. She is sitting on the porch of her wooden shack in the small town of Moron, a few kilometres away from Jérémie, where she lives with her four youngest children. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Willine and her husband have seen their five oldest children arrive [...]

On the menu for children in Haiti

By |12 March 2010|

The risks to children following Haiti’s earthquake include not only trafficking but also hunger. Up to 24 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition in Haiti. In poorer areas, this figure is even greater. One of Caritas’ priorities in the earthquake’s aftermath has been to supply regular food to the survivors. So far, Caritas has provided 600,000 people with food. The Sainte Marie community in Port-au-Prince is one of the places Caritas has been giving out food to children. Today they are waiting for a hot meal consisting of rice, beans and meat. “Until two weeks ago, I didn’t used to eat regular meals,” says Géraldine, 14. “Now the food distributions have started in the community, my parents are reassured because they know I’ll eat at least once a day.” Over 5000 people have taken refuge in the Sainte Marie community in search of food and shelter. In collaboration with the [...]