Messages from Haiti

As a documentary photojournalist I've been fortunate to have have had the opportunity to visit Haiti on a couple of occasions shooting for Oxfam GB.  The second visit was shortly before the first anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake that resulted in the death of in excess of 100,000 people. The capital Port au Prince and surrounding areas bore the brunt of the damage and it was reported that up to 1.6 million residents left their damaged homes and set up camp in informal squatter camps wherever they could.  Most of the camps had no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal and disease soon became a real issue with an outbreak of cholera claiming the lives of many more.

Carrying concrete blocks up hill in Carrefour Feuilles, Port au Prince, Haiti
Carrying concrete blocks up hill in Carrefour Feuilles, Port au Prince, Haiti
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Six months after the quake it was reported that as much as 98 percent of the rubble remained uncleared making much of the capital impassable. Crime in the camps was widespread, especially against women and girls. According to a CBS report, US$3.1 billion had been pledged for humanitarian aid and was used to pay for field hospitals, plastic tarps, bandages, and food, plus salaries, transportation and upkeep of relief workers. By May 2010, enough aid had been raised internationally to give each displaced family a cheque for US$37,000. But still conditions on the ground were extremely slow to improve.

Corail camp
Corail camp
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When I visited nearly a year after the devastation, progress on the ground appeared to be painfully slow - rubble clearance for example was still going on - rubble had now ironically become a commodity as a building material to be used for the reconstruction of the city and therefore it was no longer simply a matter of disposing of rubble, ownership had to be taken into account.  Nothing was simple.

A little sub project we did whilst there was to ask many of the individuals we interviewed for a single word that described what they hoped for the future.  The following images show a few of their responses:

Change
Change
Hope
Hope