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Haiti: Five years after the earthquake

The rocky path back to life

Five years after the devastating earthquake, life in Haiti is still not always easy.
However, Merilien Hyacinthe is proud of what he has achieved.

(05/01/2015) Merilien Hyacinthe has lived in his new house on a hill close to Petit-Goâve for almost two years now. From up here, the mountains on the horizon look like wrinkled faults covered in green velvet. At their highest point they jut into the surreal towering clouds. The tall man is contemplative when he greets us. “My wife died six months ago”, he says quietly. Silence.

The 2010 earthquake brought much suffering to Haiti. However, life today is once again easier for many people. © Grossmann
The 2010 earthquake brought much suffering to Haiti. However, life today is once again easier for many people. © Grossmann
It is the same for Merilien Hyacinthe. Today he is a farmer and earns enough to send his children to school. © Schmidt
It is the same for Merilien Hyacinthe. Today he is a farmer and earns enough to send his children to school. © Schmidt
The 2010 quake left just ruins in many places. © Herzau
The 2010 quake left just ruins in many places. © Herzau
Many people sought refuge in camps or abandoned houses. Supply and hygiene were problematic. © Herzau
Many people sought refuge in camps or abandoned houses. Supply and hygiene were problematic. © Herzau
Where a school once stood, lessons were held in tents. © Herzau
Where a school once stood, lessons were held in tents. © Herzau
Many people were dependent on water deliveries. Only a few weeks after the earthquake, cholera broke out. © Grossmann
Many people were dependent on water deliveries. Only a few weeks after the earthquake, cholera broke out. © Grossmann

“Should we go?” “No, no”, he answers, “I would like to show you my gratitude”. Because life is good in the house that is equipped against earthquakes and hurricanes. He and his four children have been able to sleep here again without fear. Finally. For Merilien’s family too, a world collapsed with the earthquake, their mud house was not able to withstand this elemental force. A year under tarpaulin followed. “That was no life”, he says. “It was a happy day when we could finally move in here.” They cleaned, carried in the furniture and celebrated with a small party in the evening. “That was on 24th December!”. Merilien laughs. “This house is a godsend.”

Education is the most important thing

On the small table behind him where his children are practising their writing it says: God is great! Thanks to the solar panel on the roof, the children can now do their homework in the evenings as well. Education is the most important thing for Merilien. His sons and daughters should have a better education than he did, he only went to school for four years.

Financially, the family is in a better position than before the quake. Together with the employees from Welthungerhilfe, around two years ago Merilien removed the weeds from his land and planted seeds. At that time he also learned how to cultivate vegetables to enable a good harvest. Now he is a farmer, says Merilien proudly. He sells spinach, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers at the local market. From the profits he can pay the school fees. Merilien has bought a goat and shares his modest prosperity with those who had less luck.

Øle Schmidt works as a freelance writer in Latin America and Asia. The unabridged article can be found in the journal Welternährung 4/2014 (in German only).

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