Life in Haiti’s Tent Cities

BY Talea Miller  July 14, 2010 at 11:49 AM EDT

All week the NewsHour is reporting on the state of recovery in Haiti, six months after a powerful earthquake devastated the impoverished island nation.

As we’ve reported earlier, thousands of Haitians continue to live in tent camps after their homes were destroyed in the disaster. Now these camps have taken on a life of their own, with businesses and schools, among other things.

More than 1,300 tent camps are housing an estimated 1.5 million people in Haiti displaced by a powerful earthquake in January. Some camps are well serviced by a variety of NGOs, but other more informal camps have little support.

Find more in this photo essay:

Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince The main building of the Haitian capital's presidential palace is empty now, but the park across the street is still a tapestry of make-shift tents.

Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince
The main building of the Haitian capital’s presidential palace is empty now, but the park across the street is still a tapestry of make-shift tents.

Shelter at a gas station Protection from the rain is crucial for people living in the tent camps now that Haiti has entered hurricane season.

Shelter at a gas station
Protection from the rain is crucial for people living in the tent camps now that Haiti has entered hurricane season.

Centre Sportif Dadadou The Dadadou camp, built on an AstroTurf sports field, is an example of camp that provides a wide range of services to people who live there.

Centre Sportif Dadadou
The Dadadou camp, built on an AstroTurf sports field, is an example of camp that provides a wide range of services to people who live there.

School in the tent city Students can attend class at a large school tent on Dadadou property, though camp organizers estimate only a fraction of children there do go to class.

School in the tent city
Students can attend class at a large school tent on Dadadou property, though camp organizers estimate only a fraction of children there do go to class.

Medical care Boston-based aid group Partners in Health has a full service health clinic in Dadadou as well, providing medical care and mental health services.

Medical care
Boston-based aid group Partners in Health has a full service health clinic in Dadadou as well, providing medical care and mental health services.

Boliman camp Boliman camp covers an area of about four city blocks. The camp has had some issues with violence and is extremely crowded.

Boliman camp
Boliman camp covers an area of about four city blocks. The camp has had some issues with violence and is extremely crowded.

Still a community "Here, there are no services, there is not enough food or water," said Stanley Fortin (middle left). But Fortin said he would not relocate because he knows his neighbors in this camp and they are a community.

Still a community
“Here, there are no services, there is not enough food or water,” said Stanley Fortin (middle left). But Fortin said he would not relocate because he knows his neighbors in this camp and they are a community.

'It is awful, I do nothing' Iviana Frederique lost her small merchant business in the earthquake and now spends her days sitting around her camp. "It is awful, I do nothing," she said.

‘It is awful, I do nothing’
Iviana Frederique lost her small merchant business in the earthquake and now spends her days sitting around her camp. “It is awful, I do nothing,” she said.

Corail relocation camp Corail camp, about 30 minutes from Port-au-Prince, is one of the first voluntary relocation camps built outside the city to help with congestion.

Corail relocation camp
Corail camp, about 30 minutes from Port-au-Prince, is one of the first voluntary relocation camps built outside the city to help with congestion.

U.N. soldiers at Corail The camp is strictly organized and protected by local police as well as U.N. troops.

U.N. soldiers at Corail
The camp is strictly organized and protected by local police as well as U.N. troops.

Newer tents People who volunteered to move from Port-au-Prince received larger, new tents and many told the NewsHour it was a good move.

Newer tents
People who volunteered to move from Port-au-Prince received larger, new tents and many told the NewsHour it was a good move.

Some problems remain Edouard Simeon said the camp is peaceful and better organized, but when it rains water still floods the tents.

Some problems remain
Edouard Simeon said the camp is peaceful and better organized, but when it rains water still floods the tents.

Back to business In camps across Port-au-Prince, people have found ways to make a living by adapting to their new surroundings.

Back to business
In camps across Port-au-Prince, people have found ways to make a living by adapting to their new surroundings.

Taking a chance There are some aspects of life that have not changed for tent camp residents -- including the nation's obsession with the lottery.

Taking a chance
There are some aspects of life that have not changed for tent camp residents — including the nation’s obsession with the lottery.

Soccer break Outside the Doctor's WIthout Borders hospital, an informal camp has covered the fields, but the residents left this area open for soccer games.

Soccer break
Outside the Doctor’s WIthout Borders hospital, an informal camp has covered the fields, but the residents left this area open for soccer games.

Shanty homes Camps have evolved from tarps and emergency tents to shanty town construction using anything that might make walls and a ceiling.

Shanty homes
Camps have evolved from tarps and emergency tents to shanty town construction using anything that might make walls and a ceiling.

Construction equipment There are signs of progress -- contruction equipment and rubble removal workers -- near some Port-au-Prince tent cities, but tangible results are hard to spot.

Construction equipment
There are signs of progress — contruction equipment and rubble removal workers — near some Port-au-Prince tent cities, but tangible results are hard to spot.

The necessities Most tent city residents are still highly dependent on aid for necessities like food and water, though U.N. officials say more people in Haiti now have these staples than before the quake.

The necessities
Most tent city residents are still highly dependent on aid for necessities like food and water, though U.N. officials say more people in Haiti now have these staples than before the quake.

Waiting for progress After six months of camp living, most tent city residents who spoke with the NewsHour said they were tired of waiting for change.

Waiting for progress
After six months of camp living, most tent city residents who spoke with the NewsHour said they were tired of waiting for change.