Earthquake in Haiti: A fallen city, a fleeing population, a new crisis

Monday, February 8, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

PAPAYE, HAITI — The Rosier family was always close. Just not this close.

Twenty-five people – parents, grandparents, children, nephews, cousins and in-laws – have been living in the family patriarch’s farmhouse in Haiti’s Plateau Central for close to a month.

Standing outside, hacking his palm trees to pieces to build shacks for his growing household, patriarch Ilson Rosier smiles and shrugs.

“They’re family – of course I have to take them in. We’ll do what we can.”

But his seven children and their families now sharing cooking, washing and living space are starting to worry how they’ll make ends meet.

The Rosier brood is among the hundreds of thousands who have fled devastated Port-au-Prince to seek refuge in the provinces.

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In deathly devout Haiti, the spirits go unserved

Saturday, February 6, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

PORT-AU-PRINCE — The cemetery reeks of death. Dozens of tombstones are overturned. Crypts have been upended, inverted and emptied of their macabre contents. It would look centuries old were it not for the bright blue paint bouncing sunlight off the broken gravestones.

The overpowering smell comes from the far side of the labyrinthine cemetery, where a plot near the street has been excavated and filled with corpses. More than 2,000 of them.

The plan is to pave over the spot and turn it into a memorial to those killed in the earthquake. But for now it’s simply a mass grave, holding corpses covered with pale dirt and concrete dust.

“Next Ghede will be wild,” says voodoo priest Menahem Laurent, referring to a holiday in early November similar to the Latin American Day of the Dead. “There will be so many ghosts.”

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Americans charged with kidnapping in Haiti

Friday, February 5, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY
With a report from the Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Ten American Baptists face charges of child abduction and criminal association after trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic without the government’s permission.

The group members, accused of flouting Haiti’s child-protection laws when the country is at its most vulnerable, were led out of a closed-door courtroom session yesterday afternoon, through a crush of reporters and onlookers and into police vehicles waiting to escort them back to the makeshift jail cells where they have spent the past week.

The Haitian government has imposed a moratorium on international adoptions following the earthquake, fearing that in the ensuing chaos the risk of child-trafficking, already a mounting problem in Haiti, would increase.

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With no food and no hope, parents sent their kids away with U.S. Baptists – and they say they would do it again

Thursday, February 4, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

CALEBASSE, HAITI — This is the town that sent its children away.

Its subsistence vegetable plots are all but destroyed; its buildings reduced to debris. If it was poor before the earthquake, it is desperately so now.

And the parents of Calebasse say they were just trying to do what was best for the kids they can no longer feed when they gave them to a group of American Baptists arrested for trying to spirit the 33 children across the border.

Many of them say they would try the same thing again.

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In post-quake Haiti, rebuilding an education system that was already broken

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Their classrooms are rubble. So are their houses – scattered around Port-au-Prince, most of them are living “sous les belles étoiles.” Many of their professors are missing or dead.

But in the fissured remains of their university, these would-be teachers are planning a revolution. They sit at desks, taking scribbled notes as their rapid-fire ideas overlap one another over the sounds of 400 families living in tents outside, and one lone, loud rooster by the window. As Haiti’s already inadequate education system lies in ruins – and with it, one of the country’s best shots at sustainable development – these upstart students are among those who hope to reinvent what it means to learn in Haiti.

“We don’t just want to rebuild. We want to begin over again,” says Michel Fresner, a first-year education student at the Centre Formation d’Education Fondemontal.

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Quake left a security nightmare in its wake

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

PORT-AU-PRINCE — It’s a strange sight on a traffic-choked downtown street across from a park that has become a crowded tent city: several dozen young men locked behind the wrought-iron bars of a rectangular, birdcage-like structure outside a police station.

The police say the men are looters, caught in the act. An officer gestures over his shoulder to rolls of fabric, building materials and dusty electronics.

A prison it’s not. But for now, and for no one knows how long, that’s where the alleged looters will stay.

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Haitian ‘orphan’ didn’t know where she was going or who was taking her

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

SANTO, HAITI — For she knows not how long, Berline Chéry travelled toward the Dominican border in a blue-and-white bus with 32 other children. She didn’t know where they were going or who was taking them there. She knew only that the blans, who spoke French and fed her buttered bread and water, had told her mother they would help her and enroll her in school. Finally, in the dark, the children started to cry. That’s when the police opened the doors and found them.

Ten-year-old Berline and the others are now in the care of SOS Children’s Village, a refuge for unaccompanied youth in Santo, northwest of Port-au-Prince. More than anything else, the compound of 240 children resembles a rustic summer camp. But Berline and two of the boys from her convoy – twins Keler and Volny Toussaint – don’t like it here. The other kids are mean, she says.

“I need to find my maman – tomorrow. Early. She won’t come here.”

She looks away, old enough to be embarrassed by the tears streaming down her face.

“Can I go home now?”

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Help still slow to reach some victims

Monday, February 1, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Marnity Buisson stands, arms akimbo, on pebbled dirt between stacks of bedsheets and a ravine that’s become an open sewer and fly-infested garbage pit.

This is her turf. The house she grew up in is reduced to bits of stone and concrete; her neighbourhood is in smithereens.

In an attempt to take control of the area where she has spent all her life, the 22-year-old joined a seven-member committee struck to oversee the welfare of 75 families living under tarps and sleeping on the ground in this Martissant alley.

In tent cities, refugee camps, mattress-filled streets and courtyards-turned-living rooms across Port-au-Prince, survivors are forming their own organizing committees to provide advocacy, security and co-ordination. Some of them have issued sporadic press releases, following their federal government’s lead in holding news conferences.

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Baptist group accused of child-trafficking in Haiti

Monday, February 1, 2010 – Globe and Mail
ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY

PORT-AU-PRINCE — At least 10 of the 33 Haitian children a group of American Baptists tried to take across the border into the Dominican Republic have parents, says the group taking care of them while the Haitian government investigates an alleged case of child trafficking.

Ten Americans are in custody and set to appear in Port-au-Prince court this morning, accused by the Haitian government of trying to take the children out of the country without proper documentation.

Aid groups have warned against hasty adoptions or transfers of vulnerable children in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s infrastructure.

The church organizing the transfer of the children says the group had only the best of intentions, that it wanted to put the children in a Dominican Republic orphanage and that it was sure all the children were parentless.

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