January 26, 2010

What The Haitians Did With All That Stuff They "Stole"

Hundreds Of Thousands Still Displaced As Recovery Efforts Continue In Haiti

LEOGAN, HAITI – JANUARY 25: A women hangs her laundry to dry near where her family is living in a tent city set up on a soccer field after many of their homes were destroyed in the deadly January 12 earthquake on January 25, 2010 in Leogan, Haiti. Haitian officials have put the death toll from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake at roughly 200,000, according to published reports. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


A man sets up a tent in a makeshift camp at a golf course in Port-au-Prince

A man sets up a tent in a makeshift camp at a golf course in Port-au-Prince January 24, 2010. A magnitude-7 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, killing up to 200,000 and leaving as many as 3 million hurt or homeless and pleading for medical aid, food and water in nightmarish conditions in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. REUTERS/Marco Dormino/UN/MINUSTAH/Handout (HAITI – Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

I can’t help wondering how many of those scenes in which Haitians were construed to be stealing might have had something to do with the near-miraculous overnight tent cities they’ve been lauded for constructing.

From a New Yorker email exchange with Jon Lee Anderson:

What is the biggest change since we spoke last week?

…(T)he truly striking thing in the past week has been how much the Haitians have helped themselves. There are said to be over three hundred provisional camps in Port-au-Prince, housing over four hundred and fifty thousand people, all of them self-initiated. It is impressive.

We’ve seen many tragic pictures from Haiti. What do the images fail to convey?

The incredible, palpable ebullience and will to survive—the uncomplaining fortitude of the Haitians. People’s lives here—quake or no quake—are very hard. They have borne this stoically and without whining. They look you directly in the eye with pride and spirit and curiosity and most often, friendliness, and they have a great capacity for laughter too—even now. The Haitians are an exceptional people.

(photos: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. January 25, 2010 in Leogan, Haiti. 2 & 3 (via Reuters): Marco Dormino/UN/MINUSTAH/Handout. January 24, 2010.)

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Michael Shaw
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