Thursday, February 05, 2009

Riots tonight?

We're back in Port au Prince. Got back yesterday, a little late. Today we were supposed to take a boat across the lake near the border to visit hungry families, but our office said no, as there is tension in the streets.

Everyone is waiting for something to happen, as the elections office was releasing the ballot of candidates for April's election. Some of those who wanted to run were, let's just say, less than admirable, with extremely questionable backgrounds.

You know, like running drugs, gang violence.

So we stuck close to the office, went to a local hospital and interviewed a woman who has a child with stage 3 malnutrition. He also has TB and is HIV positive.

The woman openly admitted to me that she "prostituted herself" to feed her son. And then she got pregnant.

I asked her how much the men (she had two men as clients) gave her for a night of sex.

She told me, "150 gourdes." That's less than $10 US, maybe enough to buy a 10 pound bag of rice.

She doesn't know how she will feed the baby when the baby comes.

Meantime, in the waiting room of the clinic, a television set is showing "Mama Mia" in French, with the songs in English. Meryl Streep is chirping, "Money, money, money, it's a rich man's world."

I found the irony sad... a room filled with women, some very pregnant, watching a show about a woman who raises her child by herself, just like they are doing, only some of them, like the woman I interviewed, probably sold their bodies just to feed the children they did have.

Such is life.

Later, when we were hanging around the office, we were told we were leaving early as they were beginning to burn tires in Delmas, a hot spot. The UN told its staffers to go home, stay behind locked doors and monitor the radio to see if the streets were safe to come into work tomorrow.

One of our staff workers, V, said that Delmas is a "yellow" zone. He and others have colored coded areas. Downtown right now is a red zone, because trouble has already started. This is how you get news of what is going on, you monitor the radio for roads blocked off and call friends.

When the real violence begins and the shootings start, bullets are flying and people are dying, that is a black zone.

On the drive back to the hotel, we passed near the "yellow" zone. UN tanks lined the street in Delmas, blocking off the elections office as UN soldiers with their baby faces and their robin's blue helmets patroled, heavily armed.

I asked if the UN soldiers would stop the people from rioting there later tonight.

The answer was, "No."

People are hungry, very hungry, tense and angry. Times are very harsh here. When we first arrived, someone told us it's been too quiet and they thought the silence would be broken soon.

Looks like it will be broken tonight, maybe.

1 comment:

Norah Wilson said...

Oh, Bonnie, stay safe! And your poor heart. It must be breaking to hear these stories, to see the bleak and desperate circumstances these people are in.