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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poverty in Haiti 1985

women with loads

Everyone has heard a lot about the poverty in Haiti. Accounts are not exaggerated. I had a hard time selecting pictures for today. Some of these pictures seem to show a relative "wealth" of one village. But it is all part of a bigger picture. The two pictures above were not taken in some remote village, but right in Port-au-Prince. In fact, you can see vehicles behind the lady carrying a tray of food on her head. But very few people have a car or truck. Only the fortunate even have a donkey, such as the lady on the right.

doing laundry in a river

This picture is blurry, because it was taken as we drove by. This is not far outside of the city, and it is women doing laundry. It's hard to see how clothes could be much cleaner after washing when the only place to spread them to dry is back on the mud. But if is this is all you have, you make it do.

I hesitate to tell this next story, but it adds a dimension of understanding. We saw a women urinating beside the road. They do not squat, but just bend the knees a bit. All the women wore dresses when I was there. She simply stopped where she was and relieved herself. I was surprised at the mechanics of the process and asked the lady from the mission if they just don't wear underpants. She said that they would prefer to, but most of the people can't get any.

truck on rough road

The next few pictures were taken on the way to, and at the village of Frettas, hidden in the mountains. Above, you can see our truck on the road. This was the road that was too rough to take the van. On the right is a river, and you can see that some greenery has grown up near the water. But the unvegetated slopes on the left are the problem. Water runs down and across the road creating huge eroded channels that have to be crossed. For one of them we all had to get out and move rocks until the truck could get through.

mountain village of Frettas

Finally we were able to cross over to the next valley and were looking down at the village of Frettas. As you can see, it looks quite lush. And that is its wealth. Since it is on a river, the people actually are able to grow food to eat and to sell. Every inch of tillable ground was planted; the crop of choice in the season we were there was beans.

Its poverty is its remote location. It was very difficult for the people to get out of their valley to sell their crops. We were quite a novelty. They were quite unused to seeing white people, and many of them just wanted to touch our skin. Of course, this also means that it was difficult for any amenities to be brought in to the village.


This is so funny that you may not believe it, but you've heard of a "one horse town?" Well, this is a one donkey town. Seriously, they had one community donkey with which they could transport goods in or out. And that donkey was cared for with great concern. It was tethered here in the deep shade, to keep it as comfortable as possible on the hot day.

palm frond school

In Frettas, as you can see on the right, there were some cement buildings, but the school here was built of palm fronds, the building on the left. With virtually no wood in the country, those are really the only choices for building materials. As you may have heard on the news, the palm buildings were much safer in the earthquake.

The most appalling story has no picture. I can't believe that I didn't take one, because it certainly would have really told a story. We had just passed all these masses of people carrying a few sticks, trying to scavenge scraps of food from the garbage, washing laundry in ditches, with children who were only fed at school... then, alongside one of the dirt roads was a... vending machine? Yes, it was. I have no idea how it was powered. People were walking up to it and inserting coins. Of course I had to ask. Would you believe that it was a machine selling lottery tickets? People who would scrounge tiny chunks of wood to make charcoal, and had no food, were putting any coin they had into a machine on the chance (ha!) that they would win a pile of money. Go figure. Actually... shame on the government for that exploitation.

The last picture for today, below, is pretty sad. Yesterday you saw some of the children at the TB hospital, playing. Unfortunately, there was also a whole room full of children like the one below, who probably never played again.

thin child in TB hospital

This location got to me more than any other. There were rows of those metal cribs, all painted blue, and each with a small, dying child. Now, what I'm about to say is not disparaging of the care. You can see that this little girl is clean, and has even had her hair braided. Now, if you are young, you may just think, well... that was a long time ago, what's the big deal about a row of metal cribs. Trust me, medical facilities were way more modern than that ward, even in 1985. This looked more like something out of the 1930s.

That's the tour for today. Tomorrow, we will take a break and do a little game to see who can win an ad for a month. This time it will be a word game, more like some of the early ones. The next day, we'll come back to Haiti for at least one more day. I have a little more to show you about the environment.

See Interacting with Haitians - 1985
See Tasks on the 1985 Haiti Trip
See A Trip to Haiti in 1985


Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the next installment of your trip to Haiti!

wenn said...

nice tour!

RNSANE said...

Again, Shark, this has meant a great deal to me. As you know, I have traveled all over the world but never to Haiti. I am sad that this country has suffered so much during its entire life, struggling in its existence. Groups such as yours that went to visit did much good, I know, and I appreciate this glimpse into the life of the Haitians. I wish we all had done more long before the earthquake.

Lin said...

Thanks for sharing all of this, Sharky. I think we are all so far removed from people who live like this all over the world. I don't think we can even imagine living like this. So sad. I can't imagine that hospital of dying children.

Sharkbytes said...

Icy- Thank you! Not very many people have ever been too interested in the story, so I am really delighted to have several of you who are really enjoying it all.

Wenn- thanks

Carmen- It's a real challenge... how to help countries like this that have almost no resources. It's hard to help people to help themselves... a little more on that tomorrow.

Lin- I think the really amazing thing is how close it is to our country. It's probably closer to you and me than California is. And yet, without some crisis like an earthquake, everyone is pretty oblivious.

Julia said...

Quiet a bit to think about with that one. I always feel saddened with tales like that. The kids who don't have a chance and people scraping by in poverty. It makes me feel fortunate for what we have and be grateful to have a roof over my head.

Duxbury Ramblers said...

I have truly enjoyed the last few blogs, poverty is a blight no matter where or who are involved - here we are in the 21st century, we can not control earthquakes and the like but no one should have to go hungry or lack medical treatment.

Sharkbytes said...

Julia- No kidding! I feel guilty for having a closet full of clothes, ratty or not! Not to mention a bed and food and...

Duxbury- Haiti's woes are such a monumental obstacle... Perhaps the rebuilding from the earthquake can lead to some good things.

Rick (Ratty) said...

The thing with the lottery tickets is common for any poor people. As you indicated, some will try anything to improve their lot in life, out of desperation. I've seen the same thing so many times while growing up in Detroit. That's why I always believed they should never have built casinos there.

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- I agree about the lottery tickets. I also have some thoughts about casinos that probably don't belong in public.