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Haitians Who Have Lost Their Homes Are Living On A Muddy Soccer Field

Hundreds of people are living in a makeshift tent city inside the main soccer stadium in Les Cayes, Haiti, following the  7.2 magnitude earthquake.
Octavio Jones for NPR
Hundreds of people are living in a makeshift tent city inside the main soccer stadium in Les Cayes, Haiti, following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake.

Updated August 19, 2021 at 8:10 PM ET

The field at the main soccer stadium in Haiti's third-largest city has turned into an expanse of mud. Last night in Les Cayes, as a thunderstorm drenched Haiti's south coast, hundreds of people slept in flimsy shelters on the athletic pitch.

Some had only a bedsheet or sheet of plastic tied over sticks to protect themselves from the elements. Others slept in tents and under tarps.


"We slept in the water," says 27-year-old Charlene Jabrum as she sat under a large tarp with 16 other people, including her 3-year-old daughter. Jabrum says her family's house collapsed in the 7.2 magnitude quake that struck on Saturday and they have no idea how long they'll be here.

"We don't see the end of this situation," she says. "Because we don't have anyplace else to live. We have to stay here. We don't know when we are going to leave."

Aid groups have handed out some relief supplies at the stadium, but Jabrum and the women she's staying with say they haven't gotten any. One of the other women says the young men and boys in the camp fight to the front of the crowd and grab everything when tarps and other supplies are handed out.

Last night, in addition to the rain, another earthquake rattled the area. The aftershock terrified people in the stadium.

Les Cayes, a seaport of just over 100,000 residents, bore the brunt of the casualties from the quake. Of the roughly 2,000 deaths reported by the Haitian government as of Thursday, the majority were in and around Les Cayes.


According to estimates from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 61,000 houses were destroyed by the temblor across Haiti's three southwestern departments, or provinces. Another 76,000 were damaged.

Many of the displaced have ended up in makeshift encampments that have sprung up all across Les Cayes.

At the soccer stadium there's no running water except for what spills out of a drainpipe near the front gate. There are two unserviced portable toilets in the back of the compound. Children are running around everywhere. The COVID pandemic is a distant concern. No one wears masks.

Paul Jean Hilton, 40, is staying in the stadium with his mother. He says he has to stay to protect her. Hilton's an unemployed security guard and he says there needs to be some order established in the camp.

"The first thing we need is shelter," he says. Temporary shelters built with tarps, he believes, are a waste of time and resources.

"We should build solid structures for families," he says. "And we need to manage this space so we can we live in a better condition. Because right now we are all going to get sick."

Currently there's no order to the camp. No one's in charge. Trash is piling up by the bleachers. Even as the stadium compound is getting muddier and messier, young men are using machetes to dig holes near midfield for support posts for what will be another shelter.

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