Haitians Who Have Lost Their Homes Are Living On A Muddy Soccer Field

Aug 19, 2021
Originally published on August 20, 2021 5:52 pm

Updated August 19, 2021 at 8:10 PM ET

LES CAYES, Haiti — The field at the main soccer stadium in Haiti's third-largest city has turned into an expanse of mud. Last night in Les Cayes, as a thunderstorm drenched Haiti's south coast, hundreds of people slept in flimsy shelters on the athletic pitch.

Some had only a bedsheet or sheet of plastic tied over sticks to protect themselves from the elements. Others slept in tents and under tarps.

"We slept in the water," says 27-year-old Charlene Jabrum as she sat under a large tarp with 16 other people, including her 3-year-old daughter. Jabrum says her family's house collapsed in the 7.2 magnitude quake that struck on Saturday and they have no idea how long they'll be here.

"We don't see the end of this situation," she says. "Because we don't have anyplace else to live. We have to stay here. We don't know when we are going to leave."

A father cleans his daughter's face at the soccer stadium in Les Cayes on Thursday. The night before, a thunderstorm and an aftershock rattled people staying in the soccer stadium.
Octavio Jones for NPR

Aid groups have handed out some relief supplies at the stadium, but Jabrum and the women she's staying with say they haven't gotten any. One of the other women says the young men and boys in the camp fight to the front of the crowd and grab everything when tarps and other supplies are handed out.

Last night, in addition to the rain, another earthquake rattled the area. The aftershock terrified people in the stadium.

Les Cayes, a seaport of just over 100,000 residents, bore the brunt of the casualties from the quake. Of the roughly 2,000 deaths reported by the Haitian government as of Thursday, the majority were in and around Les Cayes.

According to estimates from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 61,000 houses were destroyed by the temblor across Haiti's three southwestern departments, or provinces. Another 76,000 were damaged.

Desimene Lormera is currently living in a makeshift tent at the stadium. Aid groups have handed out some relief supplies at the stadium but some of the displaced people say they haven't received any.
Octavio Jones for NPR

Many of the displaced have ended up in makeshift encampments that have sprung up all across Les Cayes.

At the soccer stadium there's no running water except for what spills out of a drainpipe near the front gate. There are two unserviced portable toilets in the back of the compound. Children are running around everywhere. The coronavirus pandemic is a distant concern. No one wears masks.

Paul Jean Hilton, 40, is staying in the stadium with his mother. He says he has to stay to protect her. Hilton's an unemployed security guard and he says there needs to be some order established in the camp.

"The first thing we need is shelter," he says. Temporary shelters built with tarps, he believes, are a waste of time and resources.

A woman cooks for her family while living in a makeshift tent at the soccer stadium. According to estimates from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 61,000 houses were destroyed by the earthquake.
Octavio Jones for NPR

"We should build solid structures for families," he says. "And we need to manage this space so we can we live in a better condition. Because right now we are all going to get sick."

Currently there's no order to the camp. No one's in charge. Trash is piling up by the bleachers. Even as the stadium compound is getting muddier and messier, young men are using machetes to dig holes near midfield for support posts for what will be another shelter.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In the quake-ravaged Haitian city of Les Cayes, thousands of people are sleeping outside either because they lost their homes or because they fear aftershocks. Makeshift encampments have sprung up all over the city, including at the main soccer stadium. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Les Cayes.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The soccer pitch at the stadium in Haiti's third-largest city has turned into an expanse of mud. Last night, as a thunderstorm drenched Haiti's south coast, hundreds of people slept in flimsy shelters on the playing field. Some had only a bedsheet or a sheet of plastic tied over sticks stuck in the ground. Others slept under tarps.

CHARLENE JABRUM: (Through interpreter) We slept in the water, and we wake up in the water. It's what you see.

BEAUBIEN: Twenty-seven-year-old Charlene Jabrum is crowded under a large tarp with 16 other people, including her 3-year-old daughter.

JABRUM: (Through interpreter) My house is collapsed, and water entered inside of the house.

BEAUBIEN: Jabrum says they have no idea how long they'll be here.

JABRUM: (Through interpreter) We don't see the end of this situation because we don't have anywhere else to live, and we have to stay here. We don't know when we are going to leave here.

BEAUBIEN: She says aid groups have handed out some relief supplies at the stadium, but she and other women haven't managed to get much. From the back of the crowd, one of the women shouts out, blaming the men.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Haitian Creole).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: She says that our main problem - because we are women, when somebody else anywhere come here and carry help for us, we cannot fight. Because we are women, boy and man take everything, and we stay with nothing.

BEAUBIEN: Last night, in addition to the rain, another aftershock rattled Les Cayes, a seaport of just over 100,000. The aftershock terrified people in the stadium. There's no running water in the encampment except for water spilling out of a drainpipe near the front gate. There are two unserviced portable toilets in the back of the compound. Children are running around everywhere. The COVID pandemic is a distant concern. No one wears masks.

PAUL JEAN HILTON: (Speaking Haitian Creole).

BEAUBIEN: Paul Jean Hilton, who's 40, is staying in the stadium with his mother. He's an unemployed security guard, and he says there needs to be some order in this camp.

HILTON: (Through interpreter) The first thing we need is shelter. There's no need to waste the tarps. We should build solid structures for families. And we need to manage this space so we can live in a better condition because right now we are all going to get sick.

BEAUBIEN: Currently, there's no order to the camp. No one's in charge. Trash is piling up by the bleachers. Even as the stadium compound is getting muddier and messier, young men are using machetes to dig holes near midfield for support posts for what will be another shelter.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Les Cayes, Haiti.

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