By Father Bill Pomerleau
This is the third in a series of reports from Haiti.
Late in the evening of April 7, I drove to Bradley Airport to pick up my Haitian-American friend Marc-Donald Leon-fils, who had just flown in from his native land.
The day before, we had spoken by telephone about the situation in Deland, a village about 8 miles from his hometown of Savanne à Roches.
Like other communities in the central Haitian Artibonite Valley, Deland has been suffering from a food shortage since hundreds of displaced earthquake victims have poured into town in recent weeks.
A melee erupted in Deland on March 25 when an attempt to distribute food went awry. Ration cards were free, but not everyone who needed help received them. The result was a sort of local quarantine of the town by disgruntled locals who had set up barricades around the village to protest government incompetence in distributing aid.
“I sponsor some handicapped kids in Deland. They didn’t even want to let me in at first. I had to negotiate with the local gang leader,” Leon-fils reports.
During his trip, my friend had no easy internet access, so photos of what he saw had to wait for his return. But here they now are.
Remember: these are images taken just days ago; nearly three months after the Jan. 12 quake destroyed much of Port-au-Prince.
Civilians who arrive at Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport can see that the walls are clearly cracked from the quake
But even more dramatic is the ubiquitous presence of the U.S. military, who has been put in charge of organizing the flow of relief supplies into Haiti.
Coming into town, the first thing one sees are small tents everywhere.
A few years ago, I admired this spot near the harbor, which was a beautifully manicured plaza. Then, it was one of Port-au-Prince’s showcase spots. Today, it’s filled with displaced earthquake victims.
Downtown, one can’t miss the striking images of the damaged Port-au-Prince cathedral….
…. and Haiti’s Presidential palace.
Yet some aspects of Port-au-Prince life are returning to “normal.” Merchants have set up spontaneous markets along the streets, often along the walls of damaged commercial buildings….
… or simply in tents.
Overall, Port-au-Prince looks “as if the earthquake happened yesterday,” Leon-fils told me. Clearing away the debris has barely begun, due to a lack of proper equipment and coordination of reconstruction efforts by the central government.
This is a typical clean up scene in Port-au Prince. Neighborhood residents form a konbit (work gang) to remove debris by hand or with shovels into a pickup truck.
Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince’s notorious slum, had been largely a collection of tin shacks and cinderblock houses before the quake. Now, it’s expanded perilously into the swamp lands along the Caribbean, where residents live in tents.
Yet there are still signs of hope. These children are all orphans from the Carrefour suburb of Port-au-Prince. Leon-fils and some of his friends have gathered them together into a damaged house, where they have organized an improvised school.