At a glance: Haiti

Focus on Haiti: A UNICEF photographer bears witness to the children's emergency

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0102/LeMoyne
A woman and her children shelter in a tent encampment on the golf course of the Pétionville Club in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital – one of an estimated 500 improvised settlements in the city.

NEW YORK, USA, 1 February 2010 – Award-winning freelance photographer Roger LeMoyne has been taking pictures for UNICEF since 1990, and has spent a great deal of time on assignment in Haiti. He was one of the first photographers to arrive in the country after the earthquake struck on 12 January.

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Since then, Mr. LeMoyne has been documenting the response by UNICEF and its partners to the children's emergency in Haiti, where nearly 40 per cent of the population is under 14 years of age.

Mr. LeMoyne spoke to UNICEF Radio late last week by phone from UNICEF Haiti's temporary headquarters near the airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The sounds of passing cargo planes, trucks and other vehicles could be heard constantly in the background.

Difficult conditions for survivors

Having first worked in Haiti in 2004, Mr. LeMoyne has developed a strong connection with the country on many levels. On this, his eighth assignment there, many images have stuck with him.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF video
Photographer Roger LeMoyne has been taking pictures for UNICEF since 1990. His assignment covering the earthquake response in Haiti was his eighth trip to the country.

"Honestly, everything here has impacted me and impacted everybody who has come," he said.

Among the quake survivors he has seen are many people with limbs that had to be amputated, often in hospital conditions that were less than ideal: "All the hospitals have moved people outdoors, so I've seen women who were giving birth outside [and] people with serious injuries ...  lying around on the ground outside the hospital."

Haiti's double disaster

Mr. LeMoyne added that it has been saddening to see the destruction to Haiti's infrastructure. The earthquake is a double disaster in that poverty was pervasive even before 12 January – so building back better will be a major challenge.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0053/LeMoyne
In a field hospital at the UN logistics base near the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (from left), UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Nadine Perrault speaks with a volunteer doctor and a woman whose child was injured during the earthquake.

Both the presidential palace and the main cathedral in Port-au-Prince were symbols of structure in a fragile society, and both of those great symbols have been destroyed.

"Injuries will heal," said Mr. LeMoyne, "but the fact that the society, both physically and psychologically, has collapsed – it's going to be a difficult road ahead."

Greater international interest

The veteran photographer has covered conflicts and their aftermath in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He said the level of damage he has seen in Haiti rivals what he has witnessed in these war zones.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0122/Roger LeMoyne
Haitian earthquake survivors sweep away debris in front of a partially destroyed building in Port-au-Prince.

Mr. LeMoyne noted that he could see one potential positive impact in the midst of Haiti's tragedy: At least there's now some more international interest in helping Haiti rebuild and recover.

UNICEF believes that the unprecedented commitment, support and funding for Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake should be fully used to benefit the next generations of young Haitians – and that recovery starts with children and their communities. Only with children at the centre of the reconstruction effort can a new Haiti arise from the destruction to which Mr. LeMoyne has borne witness with such skill and compassion.


 

 

Video

28 January 2010: UNICEF photographer Roger LeMoyne talks about the emergency response to Haiti's earthquake, over a slideshow of some of his images.
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