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 it’s not easy. We can’t send people back to Port-au-Prince because they lost everything there.”
The main goal today is to help people face the influx of internal refugees by helping the earthquake victims to earn money through cash-for-work and rehabilitation programmes.
“Thanks to the money we earn each week through the cash-for-work programme we’ve been able to feed the extra mouths, pay school fees, get medical treatment and pay off debts from before the earthquake,” says Amecia Merilas who manages one of the cash-for-work teams. The team is in charge of cleaning up the area.
Like Sébien, Amecia is a farmer and has taken six lodgers into the house where he lives with his wife and six children. But his crops of corn, sorghum, beans and manioc aren’t enough to go round. And what with the frequent torrential rains which flood the roads, it’s more and more difficult to go out and sell his produce.
Even though the majority of the cash-for-work teams are from Nippes like Sébien and Amicia, there are still tensions.
“Everyone needs to work here. The people who’ve come from Port-au-Prince need to be helped, but it should be our own people first of all,” says Amecia.
“Here, 80 percent of the people are looking for something to do,” says Pierre Yves Jean Charles, coordinator of Caritas Nippes. “If we want the displaced to stay, we need to create jobs for them and fix up micro-credit programmes which will give them some money.”
He goes on to say that Nippes is a fertile region which is largely unexploited. Neither the famers nor the fishermen are organised enough to make the most of the area.
“We need to make the most of the area’s attributes. Haiti must decentralise. That the only solution,” says Mr Charles.