Gemma Handy

Life in Haiti's camps

By Gemma Handy

Reporting for BBC Caribbean from Haiti

In a corner of the Delmas refugee camp, a sprawling conglomeration of crude tarpaulin homes, flickers a little ray of hope.

Young children giggle as they pore over books and games in a large tent, protected both from the scorching sun and the anguish of the outside world.

It’s a veritable beacon in this ocean of despair.

Home to 17,000 people, Place de la Paix is one of Port-au-Prince’s largest tent cities.

Its safe haven for kids is one of the only places those lucky enough to work can send their children for free.

But its future is uncertain. Although charity Concern is striving to ensure its continuation, staff have been told there is limited funding to run the facility which looks after around 300 youngsters a day.

I am greeted by tiny kids with outstretched hands who rub their bellies and tell me of their “grangou” – hunger.

It’s an all too familiar story across the city.

In the immediate aftermath of the devastating January 12 earthquake, the international community leapt to attention.

Now, eight months later, the eyes of the world are beginning to focus on other corners of the globe.

'Goudou, goudou'

But for Haiti’s 1.3 million people still living in roadside tents and makeshift shelters, vulnerable to the elements, the struggle is only just beginning.

View pictures from Haiti's tent life Delmas was one of the capital city’s worst slum areas before the disaster, today it’s a galling testament to the way nature’s wrath can rip the heart and soul from a community.

Many still refer to that fateful day simply as ‘goudou goudou’ for fear of summoning the atrocities back.

It’s an onomatopoeic reference to the sound the ground made the day it ravaged this already suffering nation, battered and bruised after decades of extreme poverty, violence and corruption.