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WHYS in Haiti

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Claudia Bradshaw Claudia Bradshaw | 11:39 UK time, Wednesday, 28 April 2010

HaitiTerrain.jpgHere's another blog post from Mark in Haiti:

The first thing that strikes you about the Terrain Acra camp in Port Au Prince is how small it is. Small that is for a place where 25 thousand people now live. They are crammed into an area about the size of 15 football pitches. And not just people - pigs, dogs and goats rummage around in the many, many piles of rubbish and detritus.

The camp is the venue for WHYS this Thursday and I only hope we can do justice to the sounds and yes, smells of the place. The residents - if I may call them that - are in their 4th month of living cheek by jowl with each other and a society of sorts has clearly grown up.


We walked around and apart from the occasional shout of "hey, blanc!", we were met with nothing but courtesy, friendliness and hospitality. As we watched the pigs foraging in a stream, we heard a roar from higher up in the tents. It was a cock fight. They offered to stage another fight just for us but we declined.

At another corner, the clack of dominos could be heard as if the family playing the game were in their back garden in somewhere like Surrey. Another corner and a woman was showering in the open with no privacy but also no shame.


Small shops had appeared selling carrier bags, glue, vegetables and plastic washing up bowls. There was a cinema called the Vladimyr which advertised films - shown in a corrugated iron shack - for 6 gourdes (about ten U.S cents). There were people cooking meat and fish too.

At the bottom of the hill, children rehearsed a dance routine with a teacher (watch them here). Another child was playing with a metal hoop and a stick while others kicked around an old basketball.


If I've made it sound like a summer fete then I don't mean to; the conditions are appalling, there is very little sanitation and some people were clearly affected by the desperation of their surroundings. But you could see a pride and organisation developing which reminded me of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai when WHYS was there last year - pride and shame, spirit and depression all in the same place.

It was incongruous to see people smiling, sharing jokes and greeting each other as if they had always lived like that. And the sad thing is that many of them had. One man said to me that what depressed him most about Acra was that acceptance - that the inhabitants had lived a version of this life even before the earthquake.


We've heard many people tell us that there is growing anger in the 875 camps in Haiti which house - at the last estimate - 2.1 million displaced people, but there was little sign of that today. As one man told us "in the days after the quake it was just chaos, now it's routine".

WHYS will be there on Thursday, and Wyclef Jean will join us on the phone along with some of the people we heard from in Miami during the first week of the disaster.

Today's programme will be coming from Dixie's orphanage. Up in the hills above Port au Prince.


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