Rains Test The Refuges Of Earthquake Survivors In Haiti

By Dialogo
March 23, 2010

Rain fell for several hours in Port-au-Prince, flooding some camps and
forcing thousands to flee, in a new threat facing the survivors of the

“We had a nightmare night; we slept with our feet in the mud, with our
children in our arms,” said Jean Fritznel, the father of two children who live in a
shelter in Petionville, a suburb of the capital.

Although not the most intense since the 12 January earthquake, the rains that
have fallen in recent hours have turned some centers caring for children into seas
of mud, complicating the situation of victims living in tents.

The earthquake, which killed over 220,000 people, also left 1.3 million
Haitians homeless.

The great plaza known as the Champs de Mars, near the presidential palace,
site of one of the largest camps, was invaded by mud. The shelters were flooded, and
the green areas have disappeared beneath the mud.

“My tent could not stand up to the rain; the canvas that was serving as a
roof gave way during the night,” said Jean-Louis Lalanne, the mother of three
children, including a fifteen-month-old infant.

“I was staying with a neighbor to protect my son. I can’t go on in these
conditions,” she affirmed sadly.

In the Ste-Thérèse camp, erected on the site of a vacant soccer field,
several tents were flooded, and their occupants had to seek shelter with more
fortunate neighbors protected by sturdier versions.

“The tents that the whites donated to us don’t hold up. Ours is made of
pieces of cloth and is nailed to wooden posts,” indicated Jonah Ford, a leader of a
well-known victims’ committee in “New York Point,” a camp identified, like others,
with the name of a United States city that the Haitians dream of seeing some

Facing the possibility of more rain, women and men dug trenches.

“If the rain continues, we’ll have a lot of problems, but we don’t have
anyplace to go. The government should do something quickly,” a woman

Meanwhile, the young boys, distracted, continued playing marbles in the mud,
while the girls chatted near overflowing, unsanitary latrines.

The authorities “should put a school here for the children who, before
they’ve learned how to read, amuse themselves by playing for money,” a leader of the
victims’ committee complained, as well as requesting tents and food for more than
three thousand people in this camp.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has
identified more than twenty sites that are highly vulnerable to flooding during the
rainy season, which is expected to start in Haiti next month.