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Haiti six months later: Touring a tent city

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.]

The level of misery is what has changed, and not for the better. About 1.5 million Haitians are now living in tents or less in Port-au-Prince. Their health is suffering, their spirits are breaking.

The presidential palace, now collapsed with no sign of new life, is a fitting symbol of a country whose government has been completely inadequate at helping its people.

Surveillance video from inside the presidential palace captured the moment the earthquake struck. The once-grand building collapsed like a house of cards.

Directly across the street from the ruined palace, you'll run into one of the biggest tent cities in all of Port-au-Prince, with thousands of people living there struggling just to stay alive.

Frantz Abbelard is one of those people. He is seething with anger, and for good reason.

"The house is broken down. I lost those two kids. I lost three kids altogether. And I lost my wife too," said Abbelard.

His three kids, his wife, his home, his job, all lost in the earthquake. He shows me photos of happier times -- and then shows me what his life is today.

"Look at the way I live. It's terrible. Right now I have nothing. Zip. Zero," said Abbelard.

A dilapidated tent has been his home since January.

"It's really terrible," said Abbelard, describing living conditions in the tent city. "If you go right there you are going to see how they're living, how the water is so dirty. It's terrible."

So we go. I get a personal tour. With the palace on the horizon, we travel deeper into this horrid maze of shanty homes.

Abbelard showed the cistern where people -- kids -- bathe. It was shocking to see the putrid green cesspool. The good news is it's not what they drink or cook with.

Drinking water is trucked in by the Haitian government. But it's contaminated.

The signs of contamination are everywhere, especially in the children.

One woman shows me her 7-month-old child. The child's skin is pocked and blistered, her hair is falling out, and she's bloated and malnourished from the water.

Their bed is a filthy pillow, their home a series of tarps draped across a corrugated tin wall and some posts. When it rains, the woman holds her child and stands in the lone dry spot.

Another mother, a teenager, shows us her 16-month-old daughter, also struggling with a terrible skin condition.

"Since two months ago, her skin is coming like that," said Abbelard.

We aren't revealing her identity because the 17-year-old admits she has resorted to prostitution to feed her child. She says her dream is to have a house, food and a job.

In a small clearing in the enormous tent city, you feel the lack of air circulation. There are so many tents and bodies densely packed in the area that wind, breeze, does not circulate. So on a sweltering day, like most days in Port-au-Prince, living here with no breeze is absolutely unbearable.

Misery is the common denominator. Abbelard walks me to a tent that makes his blood boil. Inside, a mentally handicapped child, catatonic, nude, lying on plastic.

"The government is not even helping them out. A child like that, kids like that should have care," said Abbelard.

All these people living here tell me that outside of the water, they have not seen any help from the government in months. No food, no money, nothing. Abbelard has a very strong opinion as to why.

"Stop giving the government money because what they do is they take the money and try to blame the American people," said Abbelard. "You look like you all never did nothing. And truthfully I know you all doing a lot."

"So you think Americans are giving money to your government but the government is not helping you guys with the money?" I ask Abbelard. "They are keeping the money?"

"Correct. That's it exactly," said Abbelard.

It does beg the question: Where is all the aid that is supposed to be getting to these helpless people? We did find out that the Haitian government has ordered aid organizations to stop giving food to the needy.

Eyewitness News will explore why that order was given and where all that aid money has gone later this week.

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:

Tuesday, July 13, at 11: What life is like outside of the tent cities in Port-au-Prince. And we'll talk about disaster even larger than the earthquake that is looming.


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