It was 4:43 in the afternoon on a typical hot and humid January day in Haiti when the first tremor stuck and rattled the ground below Port-au-Prince with relentless terror. Haiti has had its fair share of political, economic and natural disasters in the past yet nothing prepared this poverty-stricken island nation of 10 million people for the destruction and aftermath of the January 10, 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
As the earth shook with violent ferocity and the buildings began to crumble and fall, hundreds of thousands of Haitians were killed and entire communities were flattened. An estimated 1.5 million people were left homeless, and most were in Haiti’s overcrowded capital Port-au-Prince. International aid poured into Haiti along with countless NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who set up emergency services to provide immediate medical treatment, water, food and much-needed shelter.
Faced with the urgent needs of providing immediate shelter to the homeless, hundreds of tent communities popped up around the city, some legal and some not. Despite good intentions, many of the tent communities were in deplorable conditions often lacking water and sanitation and safety. Some tents were made from donated plastic tarp while others were more homemade being patched together out of spare linens and plastic sheets. When the floods and unbearable heat came, the situations inside the tent communities become like hell on earth if they weren’t already miserable. Tragically, hardly any humanitarian aid reached some of these communities and families were left to fend for themselves to survive.