Reporting in Haiti
Walking through Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, it is not difficult to understand why many Haitians have been trying to leave the country, especially following last year’s earthquake.
The city still bears the scars of the magnitude 7.0 quake that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives and initially left over 1.5 million people homeless.
Many have found accomodation in tent camps that have been set up around the capital. At present they are said to house about 800,00 people.
Though meant to be temporary, these 'tent cities' seem set to become a permanent fixture.
The occupants lament the lack of adequate sanitation, lack of jobs as well as lack of attention from their leaders and some of the international NGOs in the country.
While the capital, Port Au Prince, is still choked with mounds of earthquake debris and collapsed buildings, much of the rubble has been cleared.
But there is still more waiting to be removed.
On the streets, pedestrians navigate through a gridlock of brightly coloured buses or tap-taps with the indigenous kompas music blaring from their speakers.
Vendors display their wares next to heaps of rubbish – garbage collection is sporadic.
Added to that is the potent mix of politics and disease.
A cholera outbreak that stared a few months ago has already claimed over 3,500 lives.
The disputed November presidential elections remain unresolved, with the resulting underlying tensions.
With pre-earthquake Haiti already the poorest country in the western hemisphere, this could read like a recipe for mass migration.
But not all Haitians leave.
There are those who cannot leave, while some who left illegally are being sent back.
However, many more choose to stay for the simple reason that they do not believe that all is lost.
They include artist Gerald Dorvelus, who professes his love for his country even in the midst of political and social turmoil.
“We love Haiti, we believe in Haiti,” he says. “Sometimes she makes us laugh, sometimes she makes us cry.”
He believes that Haiti has survived coups, hurricanes and floods in the past, and last year’s earthquake is one more challenge to be overcome.
Gerald’s sentiments are echoed by technology student Cenot Fanel, who believes that Haiti has the potential for development.
“Haiti could be a good country in the face of the world, where other countries would look on Haiti with respect.
“Haiti is capable of becoming a country just like the United States or Canada.”
Spray-painted on to buildings in Port-au-Prince is the message ‘Haiti pap peri’ – Haiti will not perish.
It is a simple sentence that speaks to the resilience of Haitians: the people have tried their utmost to resume some semblance of normalcy.
But my Haitian Creole translator does not share the optimism of some of his fellow citizens that the country will not perish.
“It already has,” he tells me. “Look at the state of the country, there is no hope.”
The earthquake survivors I have spoken to say 12 January is a date they will never forget. In one way or another, all Haitians were affected by the disaster.
Barber Joseph Donald still remembers the moment the quake struck.
"Normally we would feel some tremors that would not last very long, but this time it was stronger.
"I saw cars swerving out of control and buildings collapsing around me.
"There was this big building about to collapse on me. I ran as far away as I could and lay on my stomach on the street," he says.
Joseph has also been emotionally scarred by the disaster.
"Although no one in my family was injured, I saw people who were not even sick before the earthquake, lying dead in the streets.
“It still affects me to this day.”
One year later, the country is still struggling to recover.
And the people are demanding answers as to why more has not been done by the government to improve their living conditions.
How long that will take is anyone’s guess.