Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Rain and the President

A new season is starting in Haiti - and with it, a new period of governance. Tèt kale, as Michel Martelly is nicknamed in his homeland, faces great expectations.

Children play football in front of the temporary shelters inside the SOS Children's Villages as the clouds grow darker - Photo: Hilary Atkins
 On our way to Delmas, Port-au-Prince, I see new tents in the camp we are passing. Is it so much easier to import and set up new tents than to help people rebuild houses? There are 680.000 people still living in tents in Haiti, a full fifteen months after the earthquake.

Lately it has been raining during the nights and right next to the new tents, I see a huge puddle. Two naked children are playing in the muddy brown water. They jump in spreadeagled, soak themselves in the ankle-deep water, then turn over, fill up a bottle and empty it over their heads before starting over again. “What happens when the rain comes?“ I ask the driver. “There will be a lot of problems“, he says, before adding “President ,tèt kale‘ will provide a solution.“

The destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince is an apt symbol for the challenges facing the designated president Martelly - Photo: Sophie Preisch
 Michel Martelly, who has been nicknamed “Tèt Kale” – a play on words meaning both “shaved head” and “all the way” - won the long and complicated process of the presidential elections that started end of November 2010. The former musician is following the second term of René Préval. The 50-year old has to live up to a lot of expectations, not only in the sector of housing and construction.

After the interim results had been announced, Martelly gave a speech promising a new era for his homeland. He said that his supporters, his country, had voted for change and this change would take place.

The rainy season is about to start, the puddles will grow, the camps will be flooded and 680.000 people living there are likely to react less cheerfully to the waters than those two children I saw in the camp today.

Meanwhile, the temporary shelters inside the SOS Children’s Village have been made reinforced to provide protection from the rain. The prefabricated houses were not sufficiently solid, and during the first months, water entered the houses. Prior to the rainy season they were equipped with additional sealing on the ground and on the roof.
The shelters inside the SOS Children's Village have been reinforced - Photo: Sophie Preisch

“Even though it was raining almost all night, the interior did not get wet, narrates an SOS auntie. “We are fine, everyone was sleeping well“, she says with evident joy.

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