At a glance: Haiti

One year on, UNICEF revisits two young Haitian quake survivors and best friends

Haiti earthquake: one-year report

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the impact of the 12 January 2010 earthquake. Here is one in a series of stories on the long road from relief to recovery, a year later.

By Thomas Nybo

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 14 January 2011 – About a month after the earthquake in Haiti, a UNICEF communications team met and interviewed two best friends who survived the disaster: Miratson Guerrier, now 14, and his neighbour Ricardo Rocourt, 13. We recently revisited the boys to see how they and their families were faring.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo revisits two adolescent boys, who are also best friends, to see how they are faring a year after the earthquake in Haiti. Watch in RealPlayer

Back then, the friends took us to their destroyed homes in the Delmas neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. As we walked through the rubble, Miratson pointed to the spot where his brother had been killed by a falling wall, and to the spot on the far side of the house where Miratson himself had jumped to safety.

Ricardo told us that he, too, had lost a brother – a seven-year-old who was killed when his school collapsed.

Still living in tents

After touring the spot where their homes had collapsed, Miratson and Ricardo took us to the Sainte Therese camp in the Pétionville district, where they were living with family members in cramped, dirt-floor tents. Nearly a year after the quake, we returned to the same camp and spotted Ricardo within 30 seconds of walking through the front gate.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Haiti/2010/Nybo
A year after the earthquake in Haiti, Miratson Guerrier is still living in a tent in Port-au-Prince while his best friend Ricardo Rocourt has moved into an apartment nearby. Both boys have returned to school.

He quickly found Miratson, who was eager to give us an update.

"We're still living in tents,” he said, noting that he shares a tent with six family members, and it has only one bed. “I really need a change to the situation because we cannot continue living like this,” he added.

No place to play

Ricardo told us that his mother had been able to secure an apartment nearby a few months ago. She has a job in a retail store, which covers her rent and food bill. Because the area around the apartment was heavily damaged in the earthquake, however, there's no place to play.

As a result, Ricardo spends a lot of his free time back in the camp with Miratson.

"People are really frustrated about the living conditions,” said Ricardo. “And sometimes, when I'm in school, I don't see many of my friends who can't afford school. And right now, there's a cholera epidemic. Before, we used to drink all kinds of water. Now, we have to buy water to drink."

Access to education

Ricardo is quite happy to have resumed his education. He wants to study political science and, eventually, to find a position in the government and make big changes in the country – especially with regard to its historically low school enrolment rates.

"One thing that is good that has happened since the earthquake is that I am back in school," he says. "But I really want the kids who have no access to be able to go to school."

Ensuring that all children have access to a quality education is a goal shared by UNICEF, whether their schooling was disrupted by the earthquake or they simply have never set foot in a classroom. So far, UNICEF has built 57 semi-permanent schools, designed to withstand both hurricanes and earthquakes. Another 60 schools are under construction in the quake zone, with the goal of building 200 in all.


 

 

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