Amid the tattered tents, dirty water, and sour odors, lurks another threat to thousands of Haiti’s tent camp residents – the darkness.
Already homeless survivors of last year’s devastating earthquake, many residents have also had to contend with fear of the night. With no lighting in the camps, its deep shadows have left many residents vulnerable to crime and accidents.
But Haiti-based company, Axxium hopes to change that with a program, which is already underway, to install solar-powered street lamps.
Company technician Lambert Jean Osnel has helped install the fixtures around the Corail camp, which is located on the northern outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
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“What you see there is the solar panel, which is what charges the battery. The panel receives the sun’s light and converts it into energy, and this energy charges the battery. The battery runs the current that goes to the panel and feeds the bulb at night.”
Roughly 12,000 Haitians call this home, their only option after the earthquake. And since then, the camp has been criticized for its lack of resources.
Camp leader Sanom Pierre says light is a critical component to improving the current conditions at Corail.
“We can say that darkness is one of the causes of insecurity, in all senses – sexual violation, one can fall if one goes out at night – in all ways it makes things more dangerous. And also, it is an obstacle to development.”
Thirty lamps have been strategically placed near camp latrines, providing security for women who have found themselves vulnerable to sexual attacks at night.
One resident Beaubrun Oslande says she sees an improvement.
“Before, if a woman passed by here at night, she ran the risk of being raped or robbed or attacked. Now if someone tries to put their hand on her, the people gather – but that does not happen now because there is light.”
Funded by the United Nations, each lamp costs about $2,000 and can store solar energy for four days and nights.
Bottom Line: Solar-powered streetlamps are coming to Haiti’s tent camps in an effort to cut down on crime, particularly sexual violence, and to provide reliable lighting to the community.