World Agenda

Last updated: 11 january, 2011 - 17:38 GMT

Reporting Haiti one year on

BBC Caribbean visited a number of tented communities in and around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince

BBC Caribbean visited a number of tented communities in and around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince

BBC Caribbean producer Marie-Claire Williams gives her impressions of travelling to work in Haiti a year after the earthquake.

The first thing I noticed about Haitians, even before I landed in the country, was that prayer is a central part of their lives.

I travelled to Port-au-Prince in December with cameraman Owain Rich and BBC Brazil’s Washington correspondent Alesandra Correa.

Connexion Haiti

Following the Haiti earthquake, the BBC launched a 20-minute daily programme in Creole specially developed for the survivors called Connexion Haiti.

It contained the latest information about aid and rescue operations, plus messages from people trying to locate family members and other useful, practical information for the survivors.

This was the first time the BBC had broadcast in the Haitian national language and it followed other special BBC programming for listeners affected by the Haitian disaster in the French, Spanish and English languages.

BBC Caribbean – the English-language service for the region - also supported audiences in Haiti and the wider region with crucial information.

It was our first trip to Haiti and we wanted to hear, first-hand, how the people there have been coping with life after the earthquake and the recent cholera outbreak.

The majority of passengers on the flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince were Haitians heading home for Christmas.

Religious fervour

We were delayed by almost two hours because of engine problems and at one point were asked to disembark so that the problem could be fixed.

Understandably everyone was concerned about the safety of the aircraft. I later noticed a few passengers praying quietly in the airport terminal.

We finally touched down in Port-au-Prince with a burst of applause and shouts of ‘Hallelujah!’ and ‘Thank you Jesus!’ from the Haitians in their native Creole language. I understood them, being a Creole speaker myself.

I was struck by such a public display of religious fervour.

But it was something I would encounter repeatedly during our seven-day stay – the buses and trucks that populate the streets of Port-au-Prince are emblazoned with verses of scripture.

Individual stories

The BBC Caribbean team met Haiti earthquake survivor and amputee, Demorsie Loufille

The BBC Caribbean team met Haiti earthquake survivor and amputee, Demorsie Loufille

We visited a number of tented communities in and around the capital, and the residents were only too willing to share their stories.

Their frustration at the pace of recovery was palpable.

The common message was that the government was not doing enough to improve conditions – there is not enough food and not enough jobs.

Others, including amputee Demorsie Loufille, were more optimistic and were counting their blessings.

Before the quake, the 32-year-old single mother of three made a living by selling beauty products.

Having lost an arm and a leg in the disaster, life has become a daily struggle.

“I could have died, but I didn’t. It is by the grace of God I’m still here and I’m just trying to do my best for my children,” she said.

Divided opinions

BBC Caribbean producer Marie-Claire Williams

BBC Caribbean producer Marie-Claire Williams

Outside the tent camps, there are more messages of hope.

Spray-painted on to buildings around Port-au-Prince is the message ‘Haiti pap peri’ – Haiti will not perish.

Our fixer did not agree.

“It already has,” he told me. “Look at the state of the country. There is no hope.”

Artist Gerald Dorvelus did not share his cynicism. “We love Haiti, we believe in Haiti,” he said.

Haitians say there has been little improvement in the year since last January’s earthquake.

Some of them have accepted the possibility that their lives may never improve. Others continue to hope and pray that it will.

Click click here to read BBC Caribbean's web page dedicated to Haiti: One Year Later

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