Trying to rebuild: Among the survivors in Pont-Rouge


East Village photographer Q. Sakamaki started documenting Pont-Rouge — the largest camp for Haitian refugees — six days after the Feb. 12 earthquake. The disaster killed 230,000 people, and left 1.2 million homeless. Tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (I.D.P.’s) are living in Pont-Rouge. “They were so hungry and thirsty when I first visited the camp,” Sakamaki wrote. “Nearly everyone asked me for food and water, putting their hands on their stomachs and saying, ‘Grangou’ (‘very hungry,’ in English). Soon, they started to receive some food and water from the U.N. and N.G.O.’s, though at first, distribution was delayed and chaotic. Despite their starvation, they started to build shelters, using old clothes, wood, plastic bags, anything available. The tent city kept growing. Sanitation is a critical problem,” Sakamaki continued. “Human waste is released in an open space nearby, often just next to their shabby tents. This poses a serious threat of disease, especially with the rainy season looming. Security is also a concern. Some survivors told me that at night gangs often came, robbed food and even raped women. A big worry is how long the I.D.P.’s will stay in the refugee camps — actually about the real possibility that such tent cities might become permanent.”