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Residents of Port-au-Prince Slum Say Aid Slow in Coming

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As international aid continues to flow into Haiti, residents of the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil say they are still waiting for tents and other essentials more than three weeks after a devastating earthquake.

Cleanup has begun in parts of Port-au-Prince, funded by international aid groups.  

One group of nine workers, paid with U.S. development funds, is clearing the rubble of a collapsed house.  Other workers are doing the same in scattered sections of the city.

The United Nations and private aid organizations are providing tents, as well as food, in many neighborhoods.


But in the impoverished area of Cite Soleil, people make do with what they have, receiving occasional help from groups like Doctors Without Borders. Aid workers assess the needs of residents, filling out questionnaires.

Michelle Williame, like many of her neighbors, tells them she has been living outdoors since her house was destroyed in the earthquake. "Life is terrible for us right now.  Not only are we sleeping on the street, but also the government has not taken any steps to help the people of Cite Soleil.  No government social workers have shown up so far.  You have many kids and you have no place to accommodate them," she said.

With schools closed, children are doing what they can to pass the time.  Two play soccer in an open area.   Four children are playing cards under the shade of an aid truck, and one 10-year-old explains why he is here with his family.…"because the house is no good.  It's cracked, so we have to sleep outdoors."

Some help is arriving.  Doctors Without Borders is getting water to residents, says Maurice Noel, who drives the truck that brings the water supplies to the people. "They are very grateful, but they all need food and tents and a place to stay," he said.

Most families have lost their incomes.  Bricklayer Claude Estalien believes the area is ignored in the relief effort because residents were blamed for looting in other parts of the city after the earthquake. "In Cite Soleil, there are many people that do bad things, but at the same time, there are good people in Cite Soleil too," he said.

Women say they are having trouble finding the food to feed their children.  That is the complaint of an 18-year-old mother with a one-year-old child. "I used to struggle to feed the child.  Before the earthquake, I used to go out on the street and sell oranges.  Now, I don't have any money.  I just have to remain here with the child," she said.

Some here are coping with injuries as well as shock and grief. Sterline Charles was hurt as her house collapsed in the earthquake, and she lost half of her family. "I have six kids.  I lost three of them and lost their father also.  On top of it all, my foot was broken," she said.

The people of Cite Soleil say they need tents, food, medicine and other essential supplies.  They worry especially about the children, their schools closed for now and many of them living in makeshift camps.

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