The small tent camp is located five minutes walking distance from where I stay in Port-au-Prince. It has been here for four years now since the earthquake in 2010 crumbled the city and killed 140,000 people in 47 seconds.
The estimated population of all the tent camps during their glory days after the quake was 1.5 million people. Now, if you believe what you read, in the Port-au-Prince area there are still 247 tent camps remaining with over 130,000 people–a little more than the population of Peoria, Illinois. And thousands of babies have been born in these tents and have never moved out.
And the people who have been moved out of the tents are not exactly living in the “build back better” Best Western in Petionville. For thousands of them their conditions continue to be atrocious…some worse than the tents from which they came. And so quite a number of these folks actually move back to the tent camps.
Tent camp, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: John Carroll.
The tents are stifling hot and during the rainy season, people have to stand up and hold their babies as rain, mud, and sewage flow through their tents. And these camps are not regarded as the safest places in the world for women.
All in all, I feel a huge amount of guilt as I pass these tarps and tents. Something aches deep in my gut as I see these people and their unimaginable living conditions. After four years of this I still continue to stare and don’t know what to do.
John A. Carroll, M.D. is a physician working in Port-au-Prince.