Amputees, 'child slaves' and fine wines, the complete Haiti

CBC reporters in Haiti and their observations
Amputees and other injured earthquake survivors rest in cots in a tent at the General Hospital of Port-au-Prince. There could be as many as 4,000 amputees as a result of the earthquake. (Andres Leighton/Associated Press)


Every day you notice how life is changing here, slowly getting back to a tragic kind of normal. 

The streets are cleaner. The rubble is being swept into piles with hand-made brooms and loaded onto rusty trucks.  

Cars that were still buried just a few days ago are now stripped of any part that can be sold in the market.   

Batteries, radios, transmissions, spark plugs and headlamps sit in neat piles in a stall — besides the bananas and fried goat.  

A dentist who lost his home is back filling cavities when he isn't watching workers smash what remains of his walls and ceilings into bits that can be carted away. 

Clifford Apaid at his family's T-shirt factory outside Port-au-Prince. Those factories that were relatively unaffected by the quake are trying to function again to provide jobs. (David Gutnick/CBC)
 

There is an economy in this daily tragic normal, millions of people trying to make and spend money, their dollars, their gourds.

David Gutnick


The other Haiti

A few kilometres away, in the gated, well-to-do neighbourhood of Pietionville there is another kind of daily routine.  

Restaurant owner Jacques Sterling writes his daily menu on the blackboard: Salad Nicoise, pepper steak, herbed lamb chops. 

There are a few grocery stores left with well-stocked shelves.

Listen to David Gutnick's Haiti reports from CBC Radio's The Current, which he co-hosted earlier this week from Port-au-Prince.

For those with money, you can buy water from the Alps, smoked salmon from Scandinavia and cheese from Normandy.

The fruit in the stores is imported. The greeters at the door carry shotguns.

Across the street from Sterling's restaurant you can buy local fruit from women sitting on the sidewalk.

It is quite the contrast .  

Hundreds of thousands of people in this city are now out of work, or looking for work, or are too injured or too sad to work.  

While many starve, a selection of champagne is available among the fully stocked shelves at the Star Market in the comparatively upscale neighborhood of Petionville. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Or they are hustling as rubble cleaners or whatever to eke out a living. So many people no longer have access to electricity that there's a sidewalk businesses that re-charges cellphones.

A week's factory wage buys you food for your family for the week.   

Some fruit, a few pounds of rice, some cooking charcoal. That's about it.

There are now food drop-offs in 16 parts of Port-au-Prince.  

But this is temporary. It will last a few more weeks, maybe a few months.  

You can understand why all these young men are so desperately looking for any kind of work at the airport or wherever, loading trucks, cleaning, anything.

David Gutnick


Child slaves?

Jean Robert Cadet is on a mission to stop what he says amounts to child slavery in Haiti.

His organization, called the Restavek Foundation, a Creole version from the French "reste avec," meaning one who stays with, tries to rescue young, family-less Haitians through education.

Unfortunately, these Haitian children too often end up staying with people subject them to hard labour and long hours, virtual slavery to Cadet, who was brought up that way himself.

UNICEF estimates that there are 300,000 Restavek children in Haiti.

One 13-year-old girl that Cadet meets refers to the people she is staying with as "aunt" or "godmother." 

Cadet explains that many times they are too ashamed to admit the truth of the arrangement. This young girl told us she cleans, cooks and sweeps the floors for her "family." Cadet says he noticed whip marks on her back.

Kas Roussy


Lost limbs

It's hard to pin a precise number on it. But so far between three and four thousand people have had limbs amputated since the earthquake.  

There's talk here about a "generation of handicapped" who will emerge from this disaster where finding shelter as well as something to eat and drink is already hard enough for those who are healthy.

Also, because the amputations were done so quickly and in such terrible conditions, many of these amputee will need some kind of corrective surgery in the months and years to come.  

In a park in Pietionville and I met a muscular young man who had lost his left foot because of the quake and now hobbles around on a pair of new aluminum crutches.

He had also lost his home and as trying to manoeuvre in short hops to a two-metre-square patch on the ground that he shares with a couple of other young men.

If he's lucky, this man will eventually get a chance to be fitted with an artificial limb, which may well come from a relief organization called Healing Hands for Haiti, whose Canadian branch is headed by Fredericton doctor and rehab specialist Colleen O'Connell.

Dr. Colleen O'Connell with a young Haitian during an earlier visit. (Photo from Memorial University website)

I first met her in 2004 at a Healing Hands clinic in Port-au-Prince.

At the time, the clinic was just a couple of dark little rooms and the doctors met the amputees in the courtyard.

In the years since, Healing Hands has been able to build a much larger facility with a well-equipped workshop, rehab rooms, offices and a guesthouse.

The group was planning an expansion when the earthquake struck and Dr. O'Connell was in Fredericton at the time, fund-raising.

She rushed back to find that well-equipped workshop was crushed. There's nothing left.

She has been spending between 12 and 15 hours a day in the midst of the medical chaos ever since.

David Gutnick