THE BLOG
06/07/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A roof from U$Aid!

Seen from above, Port-au-Prince would seem a PR dream for the aid agencies who have been distributing tarps here--the white and orange of Samaritan's Purse and World Vision, the beige of USAid, the blue of the UN agencies, giving a roof to thousands.
I spent the better part of last Saturday meandering down the slope onto which half of Port-au-Prince is built. Coming down from the cinder-block fortresses of the well-off and the foreign in Pétionville, I walked towards Tabarre, through demolished and half-empty neighborhoods, on the charcoal-stained paths of bustling ravine markets, and across crowded camps of hard-packed dirt full of idle men, women washing, and children playing with almost anything.
At night, these families sleep under the colors of a dozen aid agencies, stitched together with wire, string, sticks, and shredded clothing into the best feasible shelter. The case of my friend Lele L'Unique--a pastor who earns his bread as a security guard on the UN compound (~$250/month)--is replicated across the city.
On Saturday, we stopped at Lele's tent in Solino, a valley in Delmas where the earthquake registered some of its highest casualties, but his wife and three kids were nowhere to be found. "They live in an encampment now," he said, "so they can get aid." The same was true for all the surrounding families, he said, each of whom had at least one representative in the neighborhood and in a nearby camp.
Lele guided me down through Solino on our way to Terrain Pe, or Parc de Séminaire, where his family now stays. Along the way, we talked to a neighbor who lost five children in the quake, passed a pile of rubble where a several story school had collapsed on its students, and met Lele's mother. He showed me his own home too--where ten people had died after he barely escaped--adjacent to the Parc Séminaire.
The Parc Séminaire is a well-organized camp--a line of people waiting for water by a cistern at the entrance, improvised shelters in rows, and a management committee that had conducted a census counting some 1400 families.
This is where Lele's family had come "to get aid," along with most of the neighborhood. But the aid hasn't come through, though the place was literally covered with USAid tarps. "You know," Lele told me under one belonging to his friend Daniel, "these tarps were not given out. Every one you see here, the people had to buy them." The going rate is roughly $15 US.
In Parc de Séminaire. There are no latrines, no supplies or funding for recreational activities for children, and one medical clinic, run by Médecins du Monde, which isn't quite to scale to treat the neighborhood. Food distribution cards seldom come higher than Delmas 33, Lele told me, and when they do, they're being sold for 100 Haitian dollars ($12).
Last week, donors pledged 5.3 billion USD for Haiti in the next two years. Where will it go?