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Haiti 10 years later: Temporary tent city turns into makeshift community for 300,000

Click to play video 'Looking back at the 2010 Haiti earthquake a decade later' Looking back at the 2010 Haiti earthquake a decade later
It’s been 10 years since a 7.3 magnitude earthquake ravaged Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, killing more than 200,000 people. We reflect on how the country dealt with the aftermath of the disaster and where it is today. – Jan 10, 2020

Global News journalists Valerie Laillet and Antony Robart are reporting from Haiti for the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the country in 2010. Valerie Laillet filed this first-person report. 

A two-hour drive takes us two worlds apart. We leave congested and colourful Port-au-Prince, heading southwest, along streets packed with people. As we approach our destination, there are fewer and fewer people to ask for directions. We pull over on 1ere Avenue de Canaan, with watchful eyes zoning in on us. A man sitting on a ledge nearby walks up and says ” I don’t want you to take my picture. I want to eat.”

More than one million people were displaced after an earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. Temporary tent cities were set up to house displaced residents. Ten years later, a temporary site in Canaan has grown.

Surrounded by jagged mountains and dust-filled air, Canaan is a makeshift community. Grocery stores, schools, churches, a basketball court and even a hair salon – things you expect to find in a suburban neighbourhood. A number of homes are made of cement blocks. But some families still live in the very tents that were put up 10 years ago.

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We walk up to a tent, unsure if there’s anyone inside.

A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti.
A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti.

 

Ismo Josafa sits in front of a smoky fire with one of her sons. This is her home, where she lives with her husband, three sons, sister and nephew. Inside the tent, there are plastic bowls, a gas tank, basins for washing clothes and other items.​ Josafa tells us she lost everything in the earthquake, including some of her family members.

Her children play outside, as other kids walk by.

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Sisters Magdalene, Sophia-Cka and Magdala on Saturday January 11, 2020 in Canaan, Haiti.
Sisters Magdalene, Sophia-Cka and Magdala on Saturday January 11, 2020 in Canaan, Haiti.

 

Magdala carries water back to her home.
Magdala carries water back to her home.

Three sisters are carrying buckets of water. There is no running water, electricity or other public services in Canaan. The girls, Magdala, Magdalene and Sophia-Cka, are heading back to their home, pointing to the structure made out of blue metal behind Josafa’s home. I’m caught off guard when Magdalene asks me if I like kids. I hesitate for a second and answer yes. Right away, she says “then take me with you. ”

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Stanley was born in Canaan, what was intended to be a temporary shelter after an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010.
Stanley was born in Canaan, what was intended to be a temporary shelter after an earthquake struck Haiti in 2010.

A little ways away, we speak to others about life in Canaan. A wide-eyed boy stands nearby. He tells me his name is Stanley, but can’t tell me his age. Locals say he’s about seven. Stanley was born here. The makeshift community is all he’s ever known and he’s never been to school. While there are schools in Canaan, families still need to come up with the money to send their children.

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Stevens and Remoncial Osias speak to Global News journalist Antony Robart.
Stevens and Remoncial Osias speak to Global News journalist Antony Robart.

19-year-old Stevens Osias goes to school about 6 kilometres away in Delmas. He says Canaan is “not liveable. We’re living but we’re not living.” He says most people don’t have food. Stevens’ father tells us he has eight kids to feed. To make a living, Remoncial Osias builds gates for homes in the area. He shows us his open-air metal shop. Men down the street are laying cement blocks, and a motorbike makes several trips carrying aluminum sheets as trucks drive by with wood and construction material.

Remoncial’s open-air metal shop in Canaan, Haiti.
Remoncial’s open-air metal shop in Canaan, Haiti.

An abandoned blue and white building is fenced in. I’m told the government built a police station years ago, but it’s never been occupied. Canaan is without law. A resident says there is no one there to protect them.

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People in Canaan explain how they’ve taken things into their own hands. But as residents continue to build on the land, some 10-year-old tents still stand and families still lack basic necessities.

Watch below: 10-year anniversary of Haiti earthquake