Survival And Poverty In Carrefour
By Nazaire St Fort
21 November, 2007
is one of the most impoverished and populous districts of Port-au-Prince,
the capital of Haiti. It is located several miles from downtown Port-au-Prince,
flanked on the west by the bay of La Gonave and to the east by the bay
of Hospital Mountain. Among Carrefour's many slums Souray is the most
impoverished, amazingly given the wealth generating potential of its
How did beaches become slums?
Massive migration from the
countryside since the second half of the 20th century has vastly outpaced
the willingness and capacity of the public and private sector to provide
jobs, education and housing. The poor quickly occupy the few abandoned
buildings in Carrefour.
Squatters take up property
on the beaches, as did those who migrated to other poor communities
such as Site Soley, Lasalin, Site de Letenel and Site de Dye. Souray
residents are often reduced to using large rags to divide their shacks
up into rooms. They subsist as best they can. Old men gather excitingly
to play dominos, a popular past time amongst the poor.
Relentless population pressure
forces people to use the sea as a dump so that the slum can expand.
Old men try to eke out a living by fishing in the polluted sea. These
fishermen have no technical or economic assistance from the state Agriculture
Women often work as street
vendors. They make a little money by selling fish or fruit, barely enough
to feed their own children. In Carrefour the government has not provided
them with a decent public market. It has become common now for district
police to arrest "informal" merchants or illegally seize their
merchandise, as the poor cannot afford a legal vendor permit.
The families of Carrefour
often live on less than one US dollar per day and suffer from malnutrition.
The lack of access to potable water and basic health care further compounds
the problem. Few can afford to attend school. With few options young
people are put at high risk of going into prostitution and crime.
Carrefour and its slum of
Souray sit obscenely close to the splendor of Haiti's National Palace.
Residents comment how their community has barely ever benefited, as
politicians, NGOs and businessmen pass their community over. The government's
police and UN soldiers seem only to
take notice when gang violence or popular protests erupt.
To tackle the increasing
poverty and decay of urbanization on communities like Souray, the answer
lies in a revitalization of Haiti's agricultural system. Haitian agriculture
must be rescued from further neoliberal "reforms" and the
damage inflicted from previous "reforms" must be repaired.
Higher tariffs on foreign agricultural products, investment in farming
and new types of cooperatives as well as an improved road network could
help revitalize Haiti's agricultural economy. Only a strong agricultural
economy can halt the influx of rural populations into urban slums like
The residents of Souray say
that they do not want indiscriminate assaults by UN soldiers and the
police but instead a sane and compassionate policy.
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