Port-au-Prince | After the Quake

January’s earthquake turned port-au-prince into rubble. As Haiti’s reconstruction stalls, many families struggle for food and shelter

01 September 2010
A woman sells juice in a Port-au-Prince refugee camp. Almost a year after Haiti’s earthquake, temporary shelter is still scarce.
JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES
A woman sells juice in a Port-au-Prince refugee camp. Almost a year after Haiti’s earthquake, temporary shelter is still scarce.
JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES

THIS IS WHAT A CAMP should look like,” says Patrick Duigan, a 28-year-old Australian doctor, as we pull into Tabarre Issa, one of the first official relocation camps for Haitians made homeless by the 12 January earthquake that killed around a quarter million people. Here they have medical clinics and extra-wide toilet units for the disabled. At the edge of a landscape of white tents, women are filling up at a water pump, and freshly washed clothes are drying on the line. Still, in the merciless summer heat, this treeless patch of Haiti looks anything but hospitable.

Until today, one of these tents hosted 15-year-old Farah Azor and her father, Jean Felix. Farah’s story drew the world’s attention when, after nine days trapped and left for dead in the rubble, she emerged alive. She spent several months recovering in the Dominican Republic, and today will move into a transitional shelter, or ‘T-shel,’ on the lot where her house once stood. I climb into a minivan with Farah and her father to make the trip, and find her smiling shyly, staring out the window.

Farah was born with a mental disability, and she’s been traumatised by her experience. When the quake struck she was bathing in the back of the house, which caved in, sealing her inside. After the tremors subsided, one of her younger sisters had been crushed to death by a computer. There were no signs of life from the back of the house, and the smell of death was everywhere. “We knew that Farah was dead,” Jean Felix says. Only nine days later—after they held a funeral for their daughters, and the neighbours set fire to the ruins of their home to burn off the stench—did her cousin return to look for his passport. A section of wall had given way and he found his cousin alive. She was rushed to the hospital then transferred to the Dominican Republic.

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    William Wheeler WILLIAM WHEELER is a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in outlets like TIME, GOOD, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Times, and The Christian Science Monitor.

    Keywords: haiti earthquake William Wheeler Port-au-Prince Tabarre Issa Hispaniola Dominican Republic New York Times Nicholas Christof Bill Clinton Jean Max-Ballerive Interim Haiti Recovery Commission UNICEF Ban Ki Moon Farah Azor
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