Sunday 25 February 2018

Charity builds safe haven for Haiti flood victims

Gareth Morgan in Gonaives, Haiti

IT IS not the fear of being buried alive that haunts the dreams of Rosanius Phabrus.

Unlike thousands of her fellow Haitians, she knows little of the claustrophobic terror of seeing buildings implode around her family home.

But she shares the grief of so many others on this ill-fated Caribbean island, having seen three of her five young children perish in churning floods that blitzed the region surrounding the city of Gonaives following hurricane storms two years ago.

What Mrs Phabrus really fears is the return of the rains -- and as every aid agency knows, this year's rains are imminent.

The Phabrus family, including two surviving children, one of whom suffers from cerebral palsy, live in a tiny tent in the village of Mapon.

Cockrels pick at piles of trash around the campside while her husband is out scraping a living as a landscape gardener, in a landscape where gardens are now few and far between.

"I would like to leave right now if I could," she says. "I am terrified of the rainy season.

"My children who died were all under the age of four."

Mudslides and disease flowed in the wake of the two major hurricanes that barraged the island in the space of just six years previous to January's earthquake. Few can appreciate the impact of this devastating sequence of events on the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

But a short drive up the same dusty road, 300 Irish volunteers and Haitians are braving temperatures of 40C to save the family from danger.


Haven Partnership has identified her family among the beneficiaries of the 60 houses that will be built this week with the charity's direction.

The bricks they are laying now are designed to withstand time and nature's fierce onslaught in a way that the Phabrus home never could.

Another facing a race against time is their neighbour Madeline Pierre, who is five months pregnant and already has two children under the age of 10. She too saw her home swept away by floodwater. Over the next three years, the family were forced into a leaking shack, built "without hope" of getting better.

"This is not how human beings should be living," says the 29-year-old mother. But with Haven's assistance, her bricks-and-mortar dream will soon be revived.

Irish Independent

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