At Camp CR3

19 Jan

For just over two years now, 96 families have been living here in dusty tents mounded with loose earth, put together with grey USAID tarps and whatever other materials they have salvaged. There are plenty of trees in what was once a verdant piece of land in the Bourdon district of Port au Prince, but by now the terrain has been broken up and transformed into rubble by the constant movement of hundreds of people.
For a while they were getting food and other supplies from a few international NGOs. “The Red Cross also brought us Aquatabs and soap,” said one of the camp’s committee members, Massillon Mikel-Ange, “because of cholera.” But that help has completely dried up. For the NGOs, the emergency in Haiti is over. And like most of the residents of the capital, people here must buy their water, along with food, fuel and everything else. There is no school and few families can afford to send their children to schools outside the camp.
Indeed pretty much the only person visiting them these days is the land owner, a Monsieur Accra, who has been threatening them ever more forcefully to leave. A few families have done so, moving back to damaged and dangerous housing, and leaving the rocky clearing among the tents where Massillon and I spoke among the small crowd that had gathered around to listen.
“The people here, who are still here, had all been renting (before the earthquake)” said Massillon, “and those buildings are gone.”
That leaves the families of CR3 in the same situation as some half a million other people, only 25,000 of whom have been given permanent homes, according to a recent article in the New Internationalist by Nick Harvey (and which I highly recommend.) In spite of the vast amount of money donated by concerned people all over the world, they remain in precarious housing with no services and no tenure rights. The entire notion of Building Back Better — to which former president Bill Clinton, the United States government and others seemed to have committed themselves — has been abandoned — as abandoned as the people in CR3.
On the day before the second anniversary of the earthquake, said Massillon, all the camp residents went on a protest march with thousands of others it has left homeless. “We started out at the airport then passed the National Palace and ended up at the Parliament,” he said. “We were demanding that the Presidency give us lodging. They have found lots of land to build factories. Why not for us?”

I tried to imagine CR3 as a place where 96 families might live in simple, two-storey apartment buildings with green space among them and the many trees. But when I mentioned the thought to Massillon, he threw up his hands in amazement that I would even consider such a miraculous occurrence. “No, that will never happen,” he said.

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