The tin-roofed cinder block house that Erlene Castel and Dunord Ernest rented was one of more than 130,000 homes damaged or destroyed by the powerful earthquake that struck southern Haiti last yearmore than 2,200 people died.
A few days after the 7.2 earthquake, they collected the sheets, tarpaulins and a tree and made a shelter for themselves and their three children. More than a year after the August 14, 2021 earthquake, the family is still living in the same makeshift tent as hundreds of others, still wondering if anyone will help them.
If recent history is any guide, few will be.
The Associated Press visited several camps surrounding the southern coastal city of Le Que, which was one of the hardest-hit areas, and again and again people complained that no government official had visited them, despite repeated promises that they would. help
While the family waited for help, Ernest died of prostate cancer last year. So today, Castel is alone, fighting for her family’s survival, like so many who struggle to rebuild their lives after the earthquake.
On Thursday morning, she was trying to get her 9-month-old daughter to breastfeed. But after a year of surviving on scraps in a makeshift camp, Castel had no milk. The little girl, Wood Brannon Ernest, fell asleep during her failed attempt.
“I have nothing to provide for them,” said Castel.
To make matters worse, the victims of the earthquake are others.
In one camp, friends of the owner are trying to return the land where the refugees settled. In recent months, thugs have twice torn apart shacks, thrown stones at families and tried to set the camp on fire.
The camp, like several others, also floods quickly when it rains, forcing hundreds of people to run to higher ground, watching their belongings get soaked.
“I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this,” said Renel Sen, a 65-year-old man who lost four children in the earthquake and once worked in the nearby fields of vetiver, a plant whose roots produce an oil used in fine perfumes. .
Families walk around to get well water, sometimes letting the sediment settle before drinking. Many do not have jobs. They rely on their neighbors for their only meal a day.
On Monday, two days after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, rescuers continued to search the rubble for survivors.
Those living in the camps say they have heard on the radio that local government officials have met with international leaders about the plight after the earthquake, but doubt they will ever be able to help them.
“So far everything has been promised,” said 55-year-old farmer Nicholas Wilbert Earnest. “I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait.”
On the anniversary of the earthquake, a group of government officials held a press conference to describe the successes of the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who took over the country shortly after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021.
The government says it planted 400 tons of beans, cleaned 10,000 meters of canals, distributed 22,000 bags of fertilizer and donated more than 300,000 baskets of basic goods. He allocated $100 each to vulnerable people in tens of thousands of homes in the south of the country. The state also opened a temporary bridge over the Grand Anse River in early August.
But UNICEF warned last week that more than 250,000 children still do not have access to adequate schools and that most of the 1,250 destroyed or damaged schools have not been rebuilt. He noted that the lack of funds and the outbreak of violence delayed the reconstruction.
Increasingly powerful gangs have seized control of the main road leading from the capital Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s southern region, disrupting efforts to provide food, water and other basic goods to those in need.
Many organizations were forced to pay bribes to avoid the kidnapping of employees during the drive south.
Cindy Cox-Roman, CEO of HelpAGE USA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, said “people feel like they’re alone in this.”
“In the past, the world united, but aid did not reach the most vulnerable. And I hope that this time will be different,” says Laurent Lamotte, who served as Prime Minister of Haiti in 2012-2014. Although he is now out of politics, Lamott is calling on world leaders to come together and help Haiti rebuild after an earthquake destroyed homes and a tropical storm caused flooding across the country a month after the president’s assassination.
Cassandy Charles, emergency program manager for Mercy Corps, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., said it could take five years for the region to fully recover from the quake. The organization has been forced to use boats and planes to ferry supplies south, but even that is complicated by the port’s proximity to the Cite Salei slum, where more than 200 people are believed to have been killed recently in fighting by rival gangs. territories.
“The situation is unstable,” he said.
Meanwhile, double-digit inflation deepened poverty. Marie Dedi Durvergues, a kindergarten teacher who lives with her two children in the same camp, said a bag of rice that cost 750 gourdes ($6) last year now costs 4,000 gourdes ($31).
Berlin Lager, a former street vendor who once sold second-hand clothes, said the money she saved to buy more clothes was used to feed her children. There was nothing left to send them to school, to buy uniforms or books.
“And the kids ask me, ‘Mom, when am I going back to school?’ My friends ask, ‘What about me?'” she said.
On a recent morning, Lager stood in line with other people in front of Tent No. 8, where Bauzil Evenyu brewed sweet coffee for needy neighbors, a system that became key to survival.
“I can’t do it every morning, but on the days I do, it’s nice to be able to share a coffee with my neighbors,” said the 48-year-old mother of two.
But a minute later, she said she was worried her 14-year-old daughter might be raped at the camp. Rapes were common in such camps, which expanded after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 Haitians.
Jocelyn Yust became the informal leader of Camp Devirel after the last major earthquake. He and other self-appointed leaders wrote dozens of handwritten letters and visited local nonprofits to try to get the attention of state officials.
“We are doing everything we can to survive,” he said.
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti early Saturday morning, killing at least 1,297 people. Rescue footage showed a woman and a child being pulled from the rubble as rescuers quickly searched for trapped victims. The US Coast Guard dispatched assistance to assist.
Cota reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.