Haiti: Occasional Musings – 2

*Saturday

MC  said we would leave the house at 9am to go and meet some women in the camp at Delmas 33.   In January Port-au-Prince is dry and dusty reminding me of the January hamattan in Nigeria, by the time we reach the camp road we are covered in dust which mixed with sweat is like a paste.   The protest was already lining up with banners spread across the narrow street – on one side tents and tarps and the other a high wall.  MC introduced me to two of the women organisers from the camp committee – strong, forceful, fun women, we said our hellos laughed as you do when you meet strong beautiful women.   What I  love here is people take their activism seriously without chaining themselves to misery – there’s enough of that around without carrying it on your head all day long. So laugh dance and sing often – when the time is for speaking then you can speak with authority.     We  joined in at the end and it felt like carnival with the huge speakers on the truck and everyone running and dancing behind. The procession was supposed to circle the roads around the camp 7 times but one of the speakers broke so they had to stop after the first trip which lasted about 30 minutes most of which was up hill.   We all just about made it without collapsing and I realised that three days a week at the gym was no substutie for a fast walk up a hill.  While we were waiting for the trucks to start up Ginette explained

“We are tired after three years – we need houses”   “a few days ago the French Red Cross came to the camp to give us new tarps.  The brought 10 poles and a tarp and gave them out – there werent even enough for everyone. Then they left”

“They take pictures of the camp with the tarps and poles and put on the internet and its us on their publicity but we dont get anything”

I will say it here now, some of the worst NGO stories I have heard over the past three years are from the various Red Cross:  American, British and French.   In many camps people are being offered $400 and $500 to move when there is no where to go. So people move to another camp which then becomes even more crowded.  A small room in PAP costs about $500 a year to rent  but there is till food to buy,  transport and clothing and if you have children then school fees unless you can enroll at one of the few free schools in the city.   So the few hundred dollars doesnt last long but it’s hard to refuse even though you know it wont last.   $1 is now only 35 Gds – impossible to eat on less than $5 and thats still way below acceptable.

We couldnt talk too much as we were standing on the street  where there was a lot of noise but  we will meet again soon.

Sunday –  MC and I came down with a terrible allergy apparently to the dust. Everyone is suffering from sneezing, coughing with severe headaches.  I ended up having to stay in doors for two days.   MC bought me some antihistamine – 10 pills cost $25.  I bought myself a small bottle of cough medicine which only lasted 24 hours but cost $14. Crazy prices, the city is so expensive.    I suspect the NGO/AID/UN population are the primary cause of the rising cost of living amongst a host of other problems.  I worry that I didn’t renew my asthma prescriptions before I came.

Written retrospectively