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Haiti six months later: Village life

July 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
[Editor's note: David Ono from ABC7 Eyewitness News recently returned to Haiti to see what progress has been made six months after the earthquake. Ono's reports reveal a side to Haiti that very few people are talking about. Watch what happens when Ono returns to Haiti, all week at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Eyewitness News.]

It was January 12 that the ground shook the destitute Caribbean nation of Haiti, killing nearly 300,000 people. Six months later, Eyewitness News Reporter David Ono returned to Haiti to see what has changed since the devastating catastrophe.

The scale of disaster in the county is nearly unimaginable. It's a nation that was crippled by poverty long before a 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Today, six months after the quake, 1.6 million Haitians remain homeless. Twenty-six-million cubic yards of rubble still litter the streets of Port-au-Prince.

The media coverage has moved on, thanks to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Since Haiti is no longer the center of attention, the perception in America seems to be that Haiti is on the road to recovery. There is nothing further from the truth.

Upon my return to Haiti, I was shocked to find a country that, in my opinion, is even worse off than when I left it in January. Its people are now malnourished, diseased and miserable.

Upon our arrival on my first day back, a clear sign of progress:

ABC7 Photographer Jeff MacIntyre and I flew into Port-au-Prince on a commercial airline flight, which means people are regularly coming in and out of the country. That is a clear sign of progress.

As we pass through customs I can already feel the sweltering heat.

I meet our translator, Kelly Guillaume.

He immediately tells me he needs $20 to bribe the police officer who allowed him into the airport. I give him the money and watch as he subtly slips the officer the bill. That is how business is done here.

As we leave the airport, we are confronted with the reality of life in Haiti.

A tent city lines the airport grounds. This is now how a majority of people live in Port-au-Prince and is an enormous part of the tragedy.

Port-au-Prince is so crowded with these squalid camps that people have been bused to rural areas to ease the crowding. And that's where we are headed, to a tent city outside of town.

Along the way we witness the chaos of what life is like in Haiti.

We finally reach our destination, a village called Montrouis. I am amazed at the beauty of this location.

Just a few miles outside of Port-au-Prince and it is the ultimate in contrasts. Green mountains descend into the beautiful, blue Caribbean Sea nearby. Literally a few feet from the beach, there is a tent city, one of more than a thousand that have been erected throughout Port-au-Prince. More than a million people are living in these conditions throughout the country.

As we go into the camp it appears to be organized. In addition to tents, they are in the process of building their own wooden structures.

The village president's name is Jean Fero. He educates me about their daily challenges. Life is far from easy for the 250 people who live here.

Most pressing, they need food.

On this particular day Fero tells me that the adults will not eat, that they save what they have for the children.

I watch as the older kids scrape the burnt remains at the bottom of a tub used to cook beans and rice.

Inside their storage shed they have only handfuls left, just enough to feed the kids the next morning. That's it. After that, they have nothing.

"It's too little to feed all the people you see here," said Fero, the village president. "They have food only for tomorrow morning and after tomorrow morning they don't know what they're going to do to feed the people you see here."

Then there is the other pressing issue.

"The water is bad," said one village resident. "We can't drink it."

They get their water from a dirty well. They know it's contaminated, but have no choice. They drink it, bathe in it, cook with it. As a result, they are riddled with disease. You can see it in their skin, their hair, their bloated stomachs.

Fero says life is a constant battle with fever, diarrhea and starvation.

It's been months since they have received any aid. What they get, they get on their own.

The villagers tell me they need $500 for a water-purification system. As for food, a hundred dollars a day will feed the entire village.

That's just a few cents per person per day. That's nothing to us, but it's insurmountable to them.

As the sun sets, for this community, it simply means they have survived another day. Will they be as lucky tomorrow?

For a list of relief organizations working in Haiti and how you can donate: Haiti Earthquake Six Months Later: Where and How to Donate

COMING UP:

Monday, July 12, at 11: David Ono takes you to the streets of Port au Prince, where thousands are still living in rubble. From inside one of Haiti's tent cities, we learn what's gone very wrong in the last six months and what locals believe is happening to the money Americans are sending.


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