Haitian women at greater risk after the earthquake

(Les Cayes) “We are not sure. In a makeshift camp that has served as a refuge since his house collapsed, Vesta Guerrier expresses the fear of many Haitian women that the August 14 earthquake made extremely vulnerable.

Posted on Aug 24, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Amélie BARON Agence France-Presse

Under a fragile collection of sheets and plastic sheeting, she lives with her husband and three children in utter poverty on the lawn of a football stadium called Gabions in the town of Les Cayes.

Already traumatized by the destruction of her home under the influence of the 7.2 earthquake that struck this poor Caribbean country, she does not feel protected.

Anything can happen to us. Especially in the evening everyone enters the field.

Vesta Guerrier, 48 years old.

Frequent rapes

More than anything, she fears falling victim to sexual violence, which was terribly common after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti and forced hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge in camps.

PHOTO RICARDO ARDUENGO, REUTERS

A woman looks around the makeshift camp built after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14 that struck November 23.

According to an Amnesty International report published in January 2014, at least 250 women were raped in the camps within 150 days of the earthquake.

Promiscuity and unhealth

In the gabions camp, in which 200 refugees have to live in promiscuity, privacy is impossible.

Vesta Guerrier trusts never to completely undress to shower and always wait until the sun has set before washing.

But “it can be that a light projects onto me and then I don’t know whether the person who illuminates me is someone who lives here with us, or whether it is someone from outside who wants to do what he wants “, She testifies modestly.

While the four installed toilets have become unusable due to a lack of maintenance, Vesta Guerrier says, “Even when we want to urinate, we suffer because everyone is staring at us from all sides.”

“Only girls can understand what I’m telling you: We women and children who are in the field, we suffer a lot,” she sighs with drawn features.

“Fear for our children”

After two young men who describe themselves as members of an organizing committee of the camp have heard excerpts from his testimony, they hasten to explain that Vesta Guerrier does not understand the situation.

But far from the ears of the self-proclaimed leaders, other victims of the gabion store also testify to their fears.

We’re scared, we’re really scared for our children. We need tents to live with us as a family.

Francise Dorismond, three months pregnant.

Another makeshift camp was set up a few dozen meters as the crow flies from the soccer field in response to these risks of violence.

Pastor Milfort Roosevelt says he moved “the weakest” there.

Surveillance to protect young girls

“We protect young girls. In the evenings we set up a vigilance brigade that circulates all night and ensures that no boy does violence against women, ”explains the 31-year-old religious.

In the ruins of an old nightclub that was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, dozens of people try to organize their daily lives between sheets pulled by simple strings on the walls.

In the middle of this little maze of fabric, a young mother tries to make the place where her 22-day-old baby is laid down as comfortable as possible with a small blanket.

“On the evening of the earthquake, I wanted to sleep on the soccer field next door, but I was told that my baby wasn’t right, so I was welcomed here,” says Jasmine Noël.

“Some people always try to use moments like this to do something that shouldn’t be done,” complains the young mother while breastfeeding her newborn.

Since the earthquake, she no longer has the impression of “really living”.

“Our bodies are here, yes, but our souls are not there,” confides Jasmine to Noël as she awaits the return of her mother, a street vendor who may have earned enough to prepare them a meal for the day.

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