Franz Smets, Earth Times
|Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Three months after a devastating earthquake levelled much of Haiti, the country’s homeless are facing new challenges as they continue their lives in the camps that have sprouted around the capital since the disaster.The stage of emergency relief is behind the Haititians, thanks to their own strength and will, plus the help and solidarity of the world. But they must still focus on steps toward a new beginning.Gerdez, 30, who now lives with his wife, sisters and children under a plastic tarp in a camp at Place Boyea in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Petionville, is among those determined to start over.|
Eleven members of his family are living on the edge of a 1,000- person homeless camp. The women have held off on leaving the camp because the mayor of the area has promised them a piece of land if they stay and vote for her in the next election.
Under the plaza’s palms and trees, a small city has sprung up.
In the middle, under the large trees, a cool breeze blows. Small shops have opened there, offering three eggs for a dollar, milk, water, soap and baked goods. There are also “laundromats,” mobile phone service, a taxy stand with mopeds and a large water distribution point.
Gerdez is desperate.
“I would leave Haiti,” he says. “But I’m the only one who has work and is earning money.”
If he can’t leave the country, he hopes to at least leave the camp.
“When it rains, we must lift up everything so that it doesn’t become wet,” he says. “And when the sun shines, you can hardly stand it under the tarp.”
Like so many structures in the neighbourhood, the three houses that were home to his extended family until January 12 now lay in ruins. Even the local school was destroyed, and crushed 26 children with it.
In contrast, many main streets of Port-au-Prince have been transformed to nearly their state before the quake. The ruins of collapsed buildings have been repaired or carted away – especially in the city centre.
At some buildings, men are being paid to wield sledge hammers against giant piles of rubble. International aid organizations are paying them 5 dollars a day for the work.
Many supermarkets, gas stations and banks have resumed operation, along with street markets offering bananas, mangoes, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables. Streets are filled with traffic during the day.
“The emergency is over,” says Richard Widmaier, director of Radio Metropole.
Gerdez has hired a man to demolish what remains of his home. When the material is transported away, he plans to build a small hut. Later he will build a house out of wood – not brittle concrete.
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