Some recent stories on the recovery phase of Haitian earthquake that caught our attention:
The kites are beautiful: some have layers of black and clear plastic forming diamonds and stars. Some have decorative edges, the plastic razor-sliced into piñata fringe. But they work, catching the breeze and jack-rabbiting into the smoky air. Small kites are notoriously hard to fly, but these are perfectly engineered. A boy I met in a camp down the block from the ruins of the Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince pointed to the sky. Blinking into the sun, I took forever to find his kite: a darting black dot far above the shattered steeples.
Making do with next to nothing is the way of life in Haiti, though many earthquake survivors now have less than that. But while Port-au-Prince has been knocked flat, it hums day and night. There is too much work to do, and too many things to make. People are still collecting the dead. Some are clearing rubble. Others are collecting aluminum or lumber, like the silent man I saw picking his way through the cathedral loft. I saw a man using hand-cranked bellows in a forge to straighten pretzeled rebar. Another spooled copper wire to rebuild an engine. Others sharpened chisels, framed shelters, piled bricks.
Business for Ilia Alsene, one of Haiti’s ubiquitous “marchands”—or merchants—who sell food and beverages at curbside stalls here, is a lot worse since the country’s devastating earthquake. But Ms. Alsene doesn’t blame the quake so much as the international relief effort that followed.
“I have fewer customers now because they are handing out free food down the street,” says the 52-year-old, pointing to the nearby Champs de Mars plaza where aid organizations regularly hand out food to tens of thousands of people camped there in tents.
By all accounts, the leadership of the humanitarian country team is ineffectual. Following the earthquake, it took three weeks for the Humanitarian Coordinator to call a meeting with aid organizations. During his visit to Haiti, John Holmes, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, chastised humanitarian colleagues by pointing out that “several clusters ha[d] yet to establish a concise overview of needs and develop coherent response plans, strategies and gap analyses.” It required his personal intervention to shorten the time frame for the universal distribution of plastic sheeting from May 1st to April 1st. The rainy season is imminent, with thousands of Haitians sleeping outside, lacking even the minimal shelter that plastic sheeting provides.
Haiti right now has a massive scarcity of land — in the legally usable sense — and is facing a massive recalculation problem as a result. Keep in mind that in relative terms, land is a more important part of the Haitian economy than almost anywhere else. After food, land is arguably the most important market in the Haitian economy and that has ceased to work.
Health workers in the camps are reporting a rising number of young rape victims, including girls as young as 12. Alison Thompson, an Australian nurse and documentary director who volunteers at a tent clinic on the grounds of the Pétionville Club, said she had cared for a 14-year-old girl who was raped recently in the camp.
“The entire structure of the lives of these children has been upended, and now they’re dealing with the predators living next to them,” Ms. Thompson said.
The government here has recognized the urgency of reopening schools to provide some structure to those picking up the pieces of their lives. But its efforts to do so have faltered.