PORT-AU-PRINCE – Christela’s baby boy was born two weeks after the January 12 earthquake, when his mother, father and 4-year-old sister were living in a makeshift tent made of a blanket and sheets. Their home in the Delmas suburb of Port-au-Prince was destroyed in the quake and, like many of their neighbours, they now live in a nearby camp for the homeless.
Sanitary conditions are poor in the camps and, as Christela and her partner Ricardo know, malnutrition is a constant threat for young children. That’s why they were among the first in line as the WFP truck arrived and began unloading four tons of special products for pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under five.
Christela handed over the coupon she’d been allocated the previous day and collected two bags of high-energy biscuits and Supplementary Plumpy, a ready-to-use food like peanut butter that comes in sachets. The peanut paste will help keep the four-year-old healthy while Christela herself can eat the biscuits and so ensure the breast milk she gives her new baby is nutritious.
"We were lucky"
“Our house was completely destroyed,” Ricardo explained to me as we walked back to their tent. “But we were lucky, some relatives and friends were killed. For the first two weeks, we lived under sheets and blankets strung from wooden poles”.
They’re now living in an encampment of dozens of white tents pitched on a piece of open ground in the suburb of Delmas. The tents were supplied by Shelter Box and Rotary International. In the right conditions, camping can be a fun activity. But having three families – 19 people – living in one medium-sized tent tends to reduce the fun-factor quite quickly.
“That’s the worst thing,” said Ricardo. “There’s just no room or privacy. The other problem is money. I used to get the occasional labouring job but I’ve no work at all now.”
"Make a difference"
The tent and a tarpaulin-covered cooking area contained all the families had been able to salvage from their collapsed homes: clothing and some pots and pans. They’d been living on whatever they’d bought in the market and rations of WFP rice (25 kilos per family collected from a designated distribution point in early February).
Ricardo admitted he had little idea about what the future held for him and his family. At least in part, their future lay in the hands of the Government and of international aid agencies, he said.
“In the meantime, these biscuits and sachets for the children will really make a difference,” said Christela, as she and her kids posed for a family photograph.
(All photos by David Orr)