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At a glance: Haiti

Families in Haiti's Cité l’Eternel struggle to get through each day

Haiti earthquake: one-year report

Children in Haiti are still reeling from the lingering 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 Bob Coen

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, 6 January 2011 – Surrounded by her meagre possessions – a foam mattress, a blanket, a few pots, a bucket and a basin – Deliverance ‘Tite Soeur’ Boislo struggles to get through her daily chores in the two-room concrete shell that has been home to her family for months.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Bob Coen reports on the situation in Cité l'Eternel, one of the poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods in Haiti’s capital, a year after the earthquake.  Watch in RealPlayer


“I have seven children and my life is getting harder every day,” explains the 39-year-old mother as her youngest child cries loudly on the dirt floor behind her.

“After the January 12 earthquake, our family was living in inhuman conditions,” she adds. “My husband was killed in the earthquake. We were sleeping out in the street, until a friend let us stay here."

© UNICEF Video
Deliverance 'Tite Soeur' Boislo with three of her seven children in the small shelter they call home in Cité l'Eternel, one of Port-au-Prince's poorest and most overcrowded neighborhoods.

Lack of infrastructure

The unfinished structure in which Ms. Boislo’s family now lives has bare window frames and no doors. It is located in Cité l’Eternel, which despite its inspiring name is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Even before the earthquake, this was also one of the city’s most densely populated districts, and the crowding has only worsened over the past year. After the disaster struck, thousands of homeless families like Ms. Boislo’s flooded into the area, living in makeshift shelters.

Like much of the capital, Cité l’Eternel has no running water or sanitation facilities. Garbage-choked, open sewers crisscross the narrow alleys amidst tightly packed small shacks.

© UNICEF Video
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Deliverance 'Tite Soeur' Boislo treats the water she bought from a community water point, using UNICEF-supplied Aquatab tablets to make sure it is safe.

Precautions against cholera

“We don’t have a toilet. We use a bucket and throw it out into the open sewer,” says Ms. Boislo. “We don’t even have a proper place to wash – we just use a basin and throw that water away too.”

These conditions are of great concern given the cholera epidemic now ravaging Haiti, and they explain why neighbourhoods such as Cité l’Eternel have been targeted by UNICEF’s cholera-prevention efforts.

Across Cité l’Eternel, teams of community health workers have been putting up posters that show people what they can do to protect themselves from cholera and treat the disease if they contract it. The teams have also been spreading messages via megaphone at community water points where residents buy treated water, as well as handing out free Aquatab water-purification tablets.

A 15-litre bucket of water will have to serve the drinking, cooking and washing needs of Deliverance 'Tite Soeur' Boislo's family for two days.

Relief for families

Ms. Boislo receives packs of Aquatabs every time she fills a 15-litre bucket to serve her family’s drinking, cooking and washing needs for two days.

“I buy my water there” she explains as she bathes her 13-month-old son, Paul. “I can’t be certain if it has been treated or if it’s really clean, but at least with the Aquatabs I can be sure it will be safe”.

The challenges facing Haiti remain enormous. But by helping Haitians take precautions to protect against cholera, UNICEF can bring some small relief to families at risk.



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