“Anything can happen to us”, many Haitian women express a common fear, as the earthquake left them extremely vulnerable by losing their homes

In a makeshift camp that has served as her refuge since her house collapsed, Vesta Guerrier expresses a fear common to many Haitian women, made extremely vulnerable by the August 14 earthquake.

We are not safe, he says.

Under a fragile blanket of sheets and plastic sheeting, she lives with her husband and three children in utter destitution on the grass of a soccer stadium called Gabions, in the town of Los Cayos.

Already traumatized by the destruction of her house by the effect of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook this poor Caribbean country days ago, she also does not feel protected.

Anything can happen to us, “emphasizes Guerrier, 48.” Especially at night, anyone enters the field.

More than anything, she fears being a victim of sexual violence, terrifyingly prevalent after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti and forced hundreds of thousands of people to take refuge in camps.

In the 150 days after the earthquake, at least 250 women were raped in the camps, according to an Amnesty International (AI) report published in January 2014.

In the Gabions camp, where 200 refugees have to live unreservedly, preserving privacy is impossible.

Vesta Guerrier trusts that she never completely undresses to shower and always waits for the sun to set before cleaning herself.

But “it may be that a light comes to me and there I do not know if the person who illuminates me is someone who lives here with us or if it is someone from outside who comes to do whatever it takes,” he says with some modesty.

Although the four installed toilets have become unusable due to lack of maintenance, Vesta Guerrier says “suffer even if we feel like urinating, because everyone is looking at us from all sides .”

Only the girls can understand what I say: women and children in the fields, we suffer a lot, she sighs.

– “Fear for our children” –

After hearing fragments of his testimony, two young men who declare themselves members of an organizing committee in the camp are quick to declare that Vesta Guerrier does not understand the situation.

But far from the ears of these self-proclaimed leaders, other victims of the Gabions camp also bear witness to their fears.

We are afraid, we are very afraid for our children. We need tents so that they can come back to live with us as a family, says Francise Dorismond, three months pregnant.

A few dozen meters in a straight line from the soccer field, another makeshift camp has been formed in response to these risks of violence.

Pastor Milfort Roosevelt says he has moved “the most vulnerable ” there.

We protect girls. At night, we set up a surveillance squad that circulates all night and makes sure that no boy commits acts of violence against women, explains the 31-year-old nun.

In the ruins of an old nightclub destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, dozens of people try to organize their daily lives between sheets stretched by simple ropes tied to the walls.

In the middle of this small maze of fabrics, a young mother tries, with a small blanket, to make the place to lay her 22-day-old baby as comfortable as possible.

The night of the earthquake I was going to sleep on the soccer field next door but they told me that with my baby it was not correct, so they welcomed me here, explains Jasmine Noel.

Some people always try to take advantage of those moments to do the wrong thing, the young mother laments as she breastfeeds her newborn baby.

Since the earthquake, he says he has the impression of not “really living”.

Our bodies are here, yes, but our souls are not, confides Jasmine Noel as she awaits the return of her mother, a street vendor, who may have managed to earn enough to prepare the meal for the day.

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