A Haitian New Years Eve
Honking horns clamour to be heard above the loud Komba music pumping out of street parties in Port-au-Prince. There are few street lights in Haiti, but makeshift clubs have sprung up on the pavements, lit by coloured bulbs or candles. Drivers are showing their usual disregard for pedestrian life — swerving dangerously to barely avoid seemingly oblivious party-goers. It’s New Years Eve in Haiti, and it’s a double celebration — Haitian Independence day is celebrated on 1 Jan.
The mood feels light and positive throughout the city, and if not for the crumbled buildings and scarred houses you could forget that we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the country. It will be an emotional time. 230,000 people were killed and 400,000 homes were destroyed leaving around 2 million people without a home. The statistics are staggering, and the impact of the earthquake was far wider than the initial terrible loss of life.
Children are always the most vulnerable in any emergency and before the earthquake hit thousands of children already lived on the street — afterwards hundreds of thousands more were left homeless.
Before 12 Jan less than half of Haitian children went to school, and in the immediate aftermath, you’d have been hard pressed to find a school standing here — 80% of the schools in Port-au-Prince were flattened.
But there is hope. Save the Children has directly supported 270 schools across Haiti – enabling more than 450,000 children to return to their studies. Going into 2011 the stakes are higher than ever. Midnight approaches and I resolve to follow the example of the resilient Haitians I’ve seen tonight — and greet the new year with optimism.