Story

Haiti: Then and Now

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A woman strings a curtain over the doorway of a small store selling food items at a tent camp in the parking lot of Sylvio Cator soccer stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince. At the time, camp residents were being asked to leave so that the stadium grounds could be fully used for upcoming events. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2011.

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A taptap, one of the ubiquitous, unofficial city buses, sits in the parking lot of Sylvio Cator soccer stadium in downtown Port-au-Prince. For months afterward, the stadium parking lot and field became home to many who were displaced by the 2010 quake. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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Men clear debris from the site of the collapsed Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours Catholic church in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Friday, February 27, 2010. In the harbor is the US hospital ship, the U.S.N.S. Comfort. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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A Christmas banner hangs over a road in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, as seen from the grounds of Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours Catholic church. Behind is the city port, which was severely handicapped in 2010 quake. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A crowd stands outside at the entrance to a Automecca tent camp, an area where USAID kits containing plastic sheets and wool blankets are being handed out to people displaced by the January 12 earthquake. The camp is estimated to have 15,000 residents. Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, March 3, 2010. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Painter Bertony Mezil touches up the fence at the Automeca vehicle dealership in Port-au-Prince. The hilly back lot of the business was taken over by displaced quake victims, quickly becoming a crowded tent camp. Bertony himself lived in a tent camp in another part of town for an entire year after his house was destroyed in the disaster. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A vendor sells wares in front of buildings destroyed in the January 12 earthquake in downtown Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Much of downtown was heavily damaged in the earthquake and many businesses have moved their operation to the street. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Vendors sell their wares in front of a block in downtown Port-au-Prince, that was nearly completely leveled in the 2010 quake. Five years later, much of the former downtown commerce has relocated to other parts of town. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A water tank in a tent camp behind the Notre Dame de l'Assomption Catholic church sports a message from its inhabitants, in Port-au-Prince, Friday, February 26, 2010. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Five years after the quake, a tent camp behind the Notre Dame de l'Assomption Catholic church still houses the displaced in Port-au-Prince. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A statue from a holiday creche display peeks out from the remains of the Sacre Coeur Catholic church in Port-au-Prince, Friday, February 28, 2010. The church was ruined in the January 12 earthquake. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Five years after the 2010 quake, a holiday creche at the Sacre Coeur church features character statues, some of which were rescued from the destroyed church. Parishoners worship in a temporary structure as plans are finalized for a new permanent building. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A man stands on wreckage in the hilltop neighborhood of Fort National in Port-au-Prince, Sunday, February 28, 2010. The neighborhood was one of the hardest hit in the city and still has not received even the most basic of services, including food, water or tents. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Serge Duchatelier and his wife Gladys Pierre rest on the roof of their home in the Fort National neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, January 3, 2015. Serge was feeding the chickens here on the roof when the quake happened. His house stood, but, says Duchatelier, "I watched my neighbor's house disappear and was terrified." Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A men's suit coat and women's white dress hang on the front door to the destroyed Ministry of Economy and Finance in downtown Port au Prince, Friday, February 26, 2010. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Graffiti reading "Down with the baron. Long live development," is seen on a construction fence, along with a picture of the replacement Ministry of Economy and Finance, which now stands where the former ministry, destroyed in the 2010 quake, used to be in Port-au-Prince. The building was deconstructed brick by brick by local residents who sold the materials to construction companies. The lot behind the fence remains empty. The "baron" refers to President Michel Martelly, who will rule by decree if an agreement with parliament allowing elections does not happen by January 12, the five year anniversary of the quake. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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At the former Radio Soleil building in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti, workers dig to salvage items before the rubble is hauled away, Friday, February 26, 2010. The station is run by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the main cathedral in Port-au-Prince, across the street and is said to currently be broadcasting from a van. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Attendees enter a newly constructed worship hall next to Notre Dame de l'Assomption—the main cathedral in Port-au-Prince—next to the destroyed building during a Sunday Catholic Mass. The original church will be reconstructed, with a modern design by Puerto Rican firm Segundo Cardona and a team of six other architects, which won the contract which was chosen from among 134 proposals. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A woman walks past the Topolino building, one of the main shopping areas in downtown Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Much of downtown was heavily damaged in the earthquake and many businesses have moved their operation to the street. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Vendors sell their wares in front of the former Topolino shopping center—leveled in the 2010 quake—in downtown Port-au-Prince, January 4, 2015. The area remains one of the main shopping areas in downtown Port-au-Prince, and is still called Topolino, but the commerce has moved to the street. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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Worshippers participate in a Catholic mass from the debris of the Sacre Coeur Catholic church in Port-au-Prince, February 28, 2010. The church was ruined in the January 12 earthquake, and makeshift services are now held outdoors. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Worshippers participate in a Catholic mass at the Sacre Coeur Catholic church in Port-au-Prince. Parishoners worship in a temporary structure, including an outdoor area, as plans are finalized for a new permanent building. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A woman hangs clothing to sell on the street in downtown Port-au-Prince, Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Much of downtown was heavily damaged in the earthquake and many businesses have moved their operation to the street. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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A woman hangs clothing to sell on the street in downtown Port-au-Prince. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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A man works to clear debris from the site of the collapsed Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours Catholic church in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Friday, February 27, 2010. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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A man prays in a temporary structure housing the Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours Catholic church, which was destroyed during the 2010 quake, in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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Officials raise the Haitian flag in front of the destroyed national palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, before a band plays the national anthem the morning of Friday, February 26, 2010. This ritual happens every morning. The palace was designed in 1912 by Haitian architect Georges H. Baussan. U.S. Naval engineers supervised its completion in 1920. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2010.

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Officials march away after raising the Haitian flag on the national palace grounds in downtown Port-au-Prince. This ritual happens every morning despite the fact that the grounds are now shielded from public view by a large green fence. The demolition and clearance of the destroyed palace was done by the American NGO J/P HRO in 2012. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

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Sixteen-year-old Fedya sits with other pregnant women in front of the shelter of the local midwife Benite in the La Piste tent camp in Port-au-Prince in 2011. Fedya chose to stay in Port-au-Prince when her family fled the city after the January 2010 earthquake. She lives in a one-room tin hut with a family friend, that friend's husband and the friend's young son. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2011.

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A man rests in the shade of a small bush on the grounds of the former tent camp known as La Piste, a former military airport, in Port-au-Prince. The camp held 50,000 displaced at its peak in 2010, but was the target of an IOM resettlement program which began in 2013 and emptied it. Image by Allison Shelley. Haiti, 2015.

Sparkling white walls, palm trees, and a gazebo paint a serene mask on the hospital in Gressier, an oceanfront town 22 kilometers south of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.

“At first look you see it’s beautiful,” said Vaudrise Paul, a 31-year-old midwife in charge of the maternity ward. “But if you come in, you see it’s so small, there’s no equipment, there’s no staff.”

The hospital is five years old, built after the powerful earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010. In the aftermath, charities and nonprofits rushed to Haiti’s aid in an expensive and broadly disappointing relief effort. I went to Gressier in May at the suggestion of Dr. Reynold Grand Pierre, Director of Family Health at the Ministry of Health. I was exploring new programs to improve maternal care; Pierre had spoken with such vitriol about the broken, disjointed system of healthcare that both depended on and was destroyed by the global charity sector. He told me Gressier was an understaffed mess, but when I arrived it felt serene and perfect, cooled with sea breezes from the beach down the road.

As I entered the verdant grounds, I wondered if the minister had been sending me on a goose chase to undermine my reporting. I shouldn’t have doubted though.

In the aftermath of the earthquake there have been countless picturesque projects on this gorgeous Caribbean island — shells of schools with no teachers, gleaming new hospitals with no staff. Many charities have come and gone, and even those that stay largely have short-term contracts. My motorcycle driver, Junior, told me his wife had birthed each of her three children since the earthquake in a different clinic — following a word-of-mouth network about ever-shifting programs and projects to find affordable options for her deliveries. The strings of these myriad distinct programs do not knit into a safety net for Haiti, and mothers are left to advocate for themselves.

Allyn Gaestel is a recent Pulitzer Center grantee. Read her full story here.