Thursday, June 03, 2010

How the Haitian earthquake made the middle class poor

The January earthquake in Haiti didn't discriminate between the poor and the middle class. Those who were comfortable still might not have permanent housing five months after the quake.

CNN International ran this profile of a middle class registered nurse who had her life crumble after the quake. Ronide Baduel still sleeps in a tent, fortunately it's not at one of the tent camps, but behind her sister's apartment. Writer Moni Basu gives us this profile of Baduel.

She ran through the streets clutching the hand of her injured son, following the crowd to Champs de Mars, a large plaza near the heavily damaged presidential palace.

She spent the first night sitting on a low concrete wall. In the morning light, she saw the panicked look in the faces of thousands of people and she thought the worst. "Life was done," she said. "There was going to be no tomorrow."

She was well-off. But a natural disaster had plunged her to the depths of poverty.

Earthquakes are not discriminating. Nor are the makeshift camps that sprouted all over the capital.

When CNN first met Baduel, just two weeks after the quake, she was sleeping on dirt, under a few sheets of plastic. She had managed to buy a black faux patent leather handbag in which she kept a few personal items: Shampoo. Soap. A change of clothes. And two wallet-size photos of herself and her son that she rescued from the rubble of her house.

There was nothing else in her tent.

When the private hospital where she worked, the Clinique de la Sante, reopened, she made sure to bathe there in the morning and then again before leaving for the night. There, she did not have to wash in public.

Days turned to weeks. Mornings, afternoons, nights -- they were all the same in the tent city. Nothing to do but endure.

Baduel watched the people around her. They were survivors. They lived among flies and filth, but they fed their children and cleaned their tents. They made the most of what they had left: their lives.

She understood then that there was a God. And that she, too, had to give thanks that she was not crushed in the rubble and that her son's injury was not life-threatening. She understood that life was not done.

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