A day in the life in Haiti

This is the second post in our “on-the-ground in Haiti” series

By Amnesty International delegates on mission in Haiti

It might be one of the most common dishes in Haiti but for the 5,000 persons camped on a football pitch in Jacmel, white rice and beans has been their only daily meal since the earthquake, complaints about the quality or lack of nutrients are rife. Despite the crunching feeling of an empty stomach, many decided not to queue under scorching sun for the three-spoons dished up in a bowl, a jug, even a plastic bag. However, the 34 vats of food were emptied in less than an hour. The distribution of meals attracted camp neighbours, mostly children.

The makeshift camps on Champ-de-Mars are home to more than 10,000 people © Amnesty International

The makeshift camps on Champ-de-Mars are home to more than 10,000 people © Amnesty International

Dozens of women and men were involved in the camp cooking site. The food items were delivered to the camp by the World Food Programme. One of the camp committees decided that instead of distributing food rations to every family, they would cook it and share it amongst everyone.

Some pregnant women we met said they would not eat camp food because they feared being sick due to the poor quality water used for cooking. Taking vitamin pills they received from international doctors operating a basic clinic in the camp on week days caused them stomach aches without any food. Signs of malnutrition were apparent among them.

Scarcity and shortages of potable water are a big concern and all the persons we interviewed pointed out that “water is health, health is life”.

When we visited the camp, the two water bladders provided by one international aid agency were totally flat. The water had run out four days earlier and since then, the delivery truck did not come. A UNPOL officer present during the distribution of meals told us that one of the few trucks delivering water in Jacmel had broken down and it was most probably the same truck that normally delivered water to this camp. Until the water supply is re-established, the camp inhabitants will have to walk a long distance to fetch non-potable water. This was a task traditionally carried out by women and children but given the needs of the camp population, men got involved and agreed that it demanded a strenuous effort.

Not even rice and beans

For others eating rice and beans would be something.

Like many other communities not affected by the earthquake, the village of Las Cahobas, located 70km from Port-au-Prince in the Plateau Central, has welcomed hundreds of displaced people. Most of them live with host families; those who have no family links in the village are reassembled in makeshifts camps and depend on the generosity of local residents. In both cases, they feel forgotten by the State and the international community. Humanitarian aid almost never reaches Las Cahobas.


Life Inside a North Korean Prison Camp

The news has been buzzing with reports of the two U.S. journalists who were sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with hard labor in North Korea.  Laura Ling and Euna Lee were convicted of an unspecified “grave crime” after they were arrested in March while investigating human rights abuses of North Korean women.

Amnesty's T. Kumar on CNN's American Morning

Amnesty's T. Kumar on CNN's American Morning

The conviction is outrageous and Amnesty International is calling for the pair’s immediate release.  The U.S. government is also scrambling to negotiate their release.

But in the mean time, what do Lee and Ling face in a North Korean labor camp?  Amnesty’s own T. Kumar was asked just that by John Roberts on CNN this morning.    His responses show the horrifying fate in store for anyone sent to one of these camps.  Here is an excerpt from Kumar’s interview:

John Roberts: If they were sent to one of these prison camps or hard labor camps, what kind of conditions would they encounter based on the studies you’ve done?
T. Kumar: We have to divide the situation into two categories. First is about the living conditions. The living conditions are extremely harsh. It’s overcrowded, very little food and very little, if any, medical attention. Then every day they have to work for more than ten hours. Very hard labor starting from breaking stones to working in the mines. And very little food again during the day.
Roberts: Very high rates of death in detention among these prisoners?
Kumar: Yes. It’s a combination of facts why the deaths are occurring. Number one, it’s hard and forced labor. Second, it’s lack of food. And unhygienic environment…There is no medical attention at all in many cases. So combined of all of these issues, [there is a] very large number of people who die in these prison camps.

Visit cnn.com to read the full interview.