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At a glance: Haiti

A Haitian father's account of the earthquake and its aftermath

© UNICEF/2010/Bakody
Dieuveil Marcelin Aristide and his son Lemark, 12, survived the 12 January earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

By Jennifer Bakody

FOND PARISIEN, Haiti, 19 February 2010 – Dieuveil Marcelin Aristide and his son Lemark, 12, are encamped in a small tent with a dozen other strangers located some 50 km from their former home in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

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On 12 January, Lemark was doing homework when the earthquake struck and the walls of his bedroom collapsed around him.

"A concrete block fell onto my legs," he recalled. "I couldn't move and I was in pain."

Mr. Aristide was rocking Lemark's baby brother in the living room. They, too, became trapped. Disoriented and barely able to breathe in the dust, he saw a ray of light through the darkness – a ray of light that led him from the rubble to a hole in an outside wall.

The baby was lowered through the hole first. In time, with help from his neighbours, Mr. Aristide was able to escape. It took four more hours, however, to chip away at the heavy block wedged into Lemark's lower body. A Haitian pastor drove Lemark and his father to the border town of Fond Parisien, where the boy received life-saving care.

Despite suffering great pain, Lemark's recovery has progressed steadily. He is now recuperating in a full pelvic cast.

Grateful to be alive

The Aristide family is grateful to be alive. They praise the authorities and international volunteers for the care they have received.

The family of four – mother, father and two sons – were reunited briefly at the 'Love a Child' Christian missionary camp in Fond Parisien. Lemark's mother and brother have since returned to Port-au-Prince, where they have no fixed address.

"We have nothing," said Mr. Aristide. "We're in the street, left to fend for ourselves, because everything we had has been destroyed. So, well, there's just God now, who's going to help us."

Essential aid

Nearly forty per cent of all Haitians are below 14 years of age, and the aftermath of the earthquake is a children's emergency. That's why UNICEF is urgently working with the government and other partners at this camp – and on both sides of Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic – to provide essential aid and safe water to children and their caregivers. 

UNICEF will continue to assist people like the Aristides in their efforts to build back better.

Lemark hopes to become an engineer one day. Prior to the earthquake, he was planning on finishing his secondary education and continuing to university. Today, he looks forward to one day returning to school.




19 February 2010: Haitian earthquake survivor Dieuveil Marcelin Aristide discusses his experience during the earthquake and its aftermath.
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