January 13, 2010

Haiti: context

I've been a couple of times, to visit my friend L., who now lives back in New York City, and to research this piece I wrote for The Walrus about MSF's obstetrics hospital there.

Estimates of the ultimate death toll range from "thousands" up to 100,000 or even 500,000 - although "both men admitted that they had no way of knowing."

Haiti's poorest of the poor, a large number, live in tin shacks like these in La Saline:



The one virtue of such shacks is that when they collapse in an earthquake you probably won't be either immediately killed or buried beyond recovery. So that's sort of a good thing.

However, slightly more affluent Haitians tend to live in dense warrens of concrete boxes like the ones on the right here:


Also, Port-au-Prince is a very hilly city, and thanks to the security situation, there are walls everywhere:


and up another economic notch, you get rickety, often-incomplete, multi-story concrete buildings, which are probably the most dangerous in terms of earthquake survival.


That's Xavier there, L.'s driver, who couriered me around town when I visited. Great guy. I hope he's still alive.


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