Gemma Handy

'Please Don't Forget Us'

STORIES of hope and heartache, tragedy and survival continue to emerge as Haiti grapples to overcome the world's worst humanitarian crisis in decades. Gemma Handy travelled to Port-au-Prince to bring you the faces behind the headlines.

MEDIA and aid agencies may be starting to move on but for the 1.3 million people still living in roadside tents and makeshift shelters, vulnerable to the elements, the struggle is only just beginning.

For them, life may never be quite the same again.

January 12 2010 is a day Haiti will never forget. That was the day people in and around Port-au-Prince thought the world was ending.

And for the 230,000 who died and the millions left homeless, it did.

It's a day most still refer to 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 shook the heart and soul out of this already suffering nation, battered and bruised after decades of extreme poverty, violence and corruption.

It's no secret Haiti has been long plagued by bloodshed and unrest.

But inside the camps, despite the cramped and squalid conditions, a sense of solidarity prevails.

It's a shining testament to the fighting spirit of these most resilient people.

Of course there has been strife, some resolved by peace seminars organised by aid workers, some by self appointed security brigades who police the muddy alleys away from the eyes of outsiders.

But for the most part, people live stoically side by side, determined to survive whatever the cost.

Recovery – from the worst disaster in modern history in one of the world's most notoriously corrupt countries – was never going to be a walk in the park.

In a litter-strewn street in downtown Port-au-Prince, where pigs rummage through piles of garbage as high as the adjacent food stalls, there's a partially destroyed building leaning precariously eastward as if resting on one elbow.

There's nothing unusual about that; it's one of thousands in the capital city alone since nature wreaked its wrath on this city of one million people.

What makes this one stand out is the clumsily spray painted words along one fallen wall – 'we need help'.

It may be almost eight months since the catastrophe struck but the vast piles of rubble – once people's homes and livelihoods – are tangible proof the clean-up is far from over.