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Photo-Essay: Haiti After the Earthquake, Part 9: Heading Out Highway Two: Camps as the Central Icon of Haitian Life Now

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Champ de Mars camp
(Image by Mac McKinney)
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ne of over 1300 refugee camps throughout Haiti.

Click here for Part 1 of this series.
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3
Click here for Part 4
Click here for Part 5
Click here for Part 6
Click here for Part 7
Click Here for Part 8

*********

July 12th was the six month anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that turned the country of Haiti upside down, and there has been a plethora of articles, videosand programs on the ongoing, dramatic situation there all week, from everyone from The NY Times to The Miami Herald, to name a few.

Some of the best coverage has come from Al Jazeera and Democracy Now. In fact, if you have the time, take a gander at their in-depth pieces at the end of this article.

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Ironically, having faithfully listened to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now shows this week, Amy ended up visiting several of the same places Georgianne Nienaber and I investigated and photographed back in mid-May, such as Champ de Mars and Camp Corail, even interviewing the same women's group fighting against rape in the refugee camps, the Commission of Women Victims for Women Victims, also known as KOFAVIV.


At the Plaza Hotel by Mac McKinney/ Three members of The Commission of Women Victims for Women's Victims being interviewed by Georgianne regarding spiraling rape in the camps.

What they said was painful, though not surprising, given the grim circumstances of so many camps in Haiti, where desperation, starvation , poverty, frustration, and lack of security are everyday realities. Listen to the Democracy Now video at the bottom entitled "Rape in the Camps" to hear a vivid account of the magnitude of these problems that allow rape to fester.

On her Wednesday, July 14th show, Amy Goodman also visited Champ de Mars, only a few hundred embarrassing steps from Haiti's collapsed national palace, also known as the White House. Here is one entranceway to the sprawling, chaotic camp.

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Despite it all, these Haitians still stay pretty upbeat.

A couple of these kids are enjoying some lollipops I conjured up.

To hear Amy's report, it would seem that things have gotten worse at Champ de Mars, not better, which is hard to even imagine. The rape problem there has apparently grown, or is at least more reported on. Food, sanitation, water shortages are still dire, and now we are into the 2010 hurricane season. One direct hit on this camp from a major hurricane, or any camp really, is too disturbing to even contemplate, an event that could devastate hundreds of thousands of Haitians if massive enough. And yet I have heard that hurricane preparedness by the government, UN forces and the NGOs ranges from poor to pathetic. Correct me if I am wrong.

As for the big picture, the international community as well as the powers that be within Haiti have let the Haitian people down to a dramatic degree, to the point where it is debatable whether any progress has been made at all in the past six months, despite massive infusions of money, material aid and volunteers. The plus's are counterbalanced by the minus's, perhaps even outweighed by them. There are still well over a million Haitians living in over 1300 camps, many of which are an embarrassment to the so-called relief and recovery efforts. Yet through it all, one thing continues to stand out, and that is the marvelous character of the Haitian people overall, who have suffered so much for decades, even centuries, yet continue to carry on, perhaps stoically, but often as not with smile on their faces and a twinkle in their eyes. If they ever get half a chance to really rebuild their country, world watch out!

On our third day in Haiti (after I had done an early morning photo shoot of the capital), Georgianne and I, guided by our "Fixer" Andre, headed west from Port-au-Prince in the direction of the epicenter of the January 12 earthquake near the town of Le'ogĂ ne, approximately 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Andre wound our Dodge Raider through the back streets and hills of the latter to avoid some terrible traffic jams, and finally landed us on Highway Two, heading due west along the coast and within sight of the Caribbean Sea. Our first goal was to visit more camps, and this is what unfolded this day:

This is Georgianne's camera arm sticking out the window.

One of many camps you will see right off the highways of Haiti.


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Camp Brooklyn

This camp, and another, more well-to-do camp across the highway are both under the auspices of the Neges Foundation, Inc., a small but dedicated NGO whose American homebase is in Brooklyn, so I imagine this camp's name has something to do with that fact.

It is actually a plea for assistance.



He defacto set the tone for the camp in my mind. Everyone seemed fairly relaxed and friendly, although, perhaps, stoical. There were plenty of complaints, of course, but being out in the countryside amidst sugarcane crops, livestock and trees is a definite improvement over the squalid, horribly overcrowded, steaming hot and humid conditions in Champ de Mars back in the capital.

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