Haiti Earthquake | Three years later

Three years after Haiti earthquake, loss of hope, desperation


A year after the Haitian government, with the international community’s help, began moving quake displaced families out of the camps, hope and happiness turn to despair and disillusionment as the hardest-hit struggle to rebuild their tattered lives

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South Florida’s Haitian Community has planned several events to commemorate the third anniversary of the earthquake:


6 p.m. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime presents: A Community Discussion, Reflecting on the January 12, 2010 Haiti Earthquake, MOCA Museum, 770 NE 12th St. Event is free. Rsvp: rsvpd2@miamidade.gov


5 p.m. Haitian community leaders participate in a silent vigil and march, starting at the corner of North Miami Avenue and 54 Street.

7:30 p.m. Commemorative Mass at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church, 130 NE 62nd St.

Sunday3 p.m. Special screening of Broken Stones, a documentary on Haiti’s quake by Haitian-American filmmaker Guetty Felin at Miami Beach Cinematheque, 1130 Washington Ave. Cost is $8 members, $10 nonmembers, students and seniors $9.


The narrow corridor home deep inside the mountain was supposed to be a new beginning, a place where Alexandra Simin could have a fresh shot at life after nearly two years of sleeping on a dirt floor in a fetid tent city.

But 14 months after trading in her small tent for the one-room cinder block shack in the hillside slum called “Jalousie” or Jealousy, the mother of two and survivor of Haiti’s catastrophic Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake was again without a home.

“I always thought that after a year things would be easier; there would be jobs in the country and I could find work,” said Simin, 25, as she faced her second eviction in as many months.

“I really thought life would have gotten better.”

Three years after the monstrous 7.0 quake, and a year after the Haitian government, with help from the international community, began emptying the most visible tent cities and returning dwellers to neighborhoods, the number of displaced quake victims living on public plazas and roadways has dropped significantly.

But in a little-noticed consequence of the removals, many have been forced to return to the capital’s teeming slums. That’s a far cry from what the Haitian government and the international community, which has spent billions here, promised in the quake’s aftermath — to create jobs, build homes and construct a “new Haiti.”

The situation has caused some in the international community to question whether the focus should have been creating jobs rather than housing.

“You’re not going to get a nice housing estate even in a poor area by creating jobs because people will put up what they like and make decisions about how they use their money,’’ said Nigel Fisher, who heads the United Nation’s humanitarian operations in Haiti. “But in the end, at least, they are not being dependent. They are making their own decisions. I think that’s really important. It’s something we missed.”

In trying to rebuild, Simin and other former tent dwellers say stitching back their tattered lives is proving to be as elusive as the lofty promises. They say little has changed since the quake as poverty deepens, reconstruction stalls, political paralysis take root and cholera and chronic disasters become the norm.

“The country is becoming more and more difficult to live in,” said Simin, sitting outside a friend’s one-room home, where she sleeps on the floor with her two children. “We haven’t seen change. People have problems with food, problems with schools, problems with housing. Once you have a problem with finding a place to sleep, you just might as well just die. There’s no living.”

Simin and others say it’s clear that neither the government nor the international community had a plan for what would happen to them once they left the tent cities. Their growing sense of despair comes as the aid groups that flooded Haiti in the aftermath either cut programs or leave as funds dry up — and as half of the promised $5.3 billion in donor pledges remain outstanding.

Meanwhile, Haiti is facing even tougher economic times, according to a recent evaluation by the International Monetary Fund: rising food prices have helped increase inflation almost 2 percent since June to 6.8 percent; the forecast growth in gross domestic product, once projected at 7.8 percent, is now down to 2.5 percent because of the government’s slow execution of public projects; and a spring drought followed by two storms this hurricane season created more than $170 million in crop losses and put an additional 1.5 million Haitians in danger of hunger.

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