A return to Hispaniola

Two years ago this month I was in Port au Prince, Haiti. It was a few months after one of the worst earthquakes in living memory had devastated the city, killing over 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless. The actual quake had lasted less than a minute, but in its wake it had left behind a city broken beyond repair. Before the earthquake, Haiti had already been the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with over 70% of its population living below the poverty line in tightly packed slums. After the quake the city and the country lay in ruins.

…I remember the day I took this photograph.

We had been stopped at a road block and I remember asking my driver about the significance of the flags fluttering amongst the twisted wreckage. It seemed incongruous somehow that this one building should stand out amongst a seemingly endless landscape of indiscriminate destruction. He informed me that it had been a maternity hospital. On the day of the earthquake there had been 125 women and children in there. They were still inside…

…For some reason this one image has always summed up the sheer hopelessness of Haiti’s plight for me. The relief agencies had taken the time to place flags in the rubble, but none of them had had the time or the resources to recover the dead from inside. Over the coming days I was to see far worse sights amongst the slums and refugee camps of Port au Prince, but somehow my thoughts always returned to this one emotive image. Two years on, it still exerts a powerful hold…

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