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Global press journal: A Haitian town still lives without electricity since an earthquake in 2021

  • May 5, 2024
  • 16
  • 10
global-press-journal:-a-haitian-town-still-lives-without-electricity-since-an-earthquake-in-2021

(Rose Hurguelle Point du Jour/Global Press Journal) Summary: Out of service for three years following an earthquake, the Saut Mathurine hydroelectric power station remains inactive. Local residents do not have this option.

Reporter Byline: Rose Hurguelle Point of the day, GPJ Haiti

Photo Caption:

Foto 1: Abaky Labossière welds in his workshop in downtown Maniche, Haiti. Abaky has been operating his business using a generator since an earthquake in August 2021 destroyed his workshop and the only hydroelectric power station in Maniche.

Photo 2 and 3: The Saut Mathurine hydroelectric plant is out of service in Camp-Perrin, Haiti. The plant powered Maniche, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away, until an earthquake in August 2021 damaged the building and stopped all electricity production.

Photo 4 and 5: Residents play dominoes under the streetlights on the main street of Maniche. The Maniche Youth Union for Development installed lights to remedy the lack of electricity after the August 2021 earthquake.

Photo Credit: Rose Hurguelle Point of the day, GPJ Haiti

Article

“This article was originally published by Global Press Journal. »

MANICHE, HAITI — Abaky Labossière welds a car engine in his workshop in Maniche, a commune located 201 kilometers (125 miles) from Port-au-Prince. It has been 14 years since the blacksmith left the capital after the earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti in January 2010, and returned to his hometown. Port-au-Prince had suffered significant damage and this father of four had lost his house and his job. Abaky, 42, returned to Maniche to restart his life and opened a workshop where he began making iron stoves to meet local needs. “It was a success,” he says, “and I was able to quickly get back on my feet. »

But in August 2021, another disaster struck again.

Another earthquake destroyed the Saut Mathurine hydroelectric plant, Maniche’s only electricity supplier. Since then, Maniche has had no electricity and the blackout has forced residents to abandon activities requiring electricity. Others, like Abaky, had to find alternatives.

“To continue living I had to rent a generator for 3,000 gourdes per day and I have to buy fuel,” he says. “I am aware that I work for the rental of the generator and the fuel, but at least with the little I have left, I can take care of my family. »

The US dollar remains unstable on the Haitian market, but at the current rate, 1 dollar is equivalent to 132 gourdes. This means that Abaky has to pay around $23 per day to rent the generator, in addition to the costs of fuel, the price of which is also unstable.

Well before the 2021 earthquake, Maniche and Camp-Perrin, a neighboring town, barely had 10 hours of electricity per day. Although insufficient, electricity supplied businesses and residents’ domestic consumption. When operational, the hydroelectric plant often had problems such as engine failures and lack of fuel to operate, which were cited as causes for the low power supply. But the situation worsened after the earthquake damaged the power station, causing a total power outage in both communities.

Since then, the streets of Maniche are still littered with poles and wires, with few, if any, signs that power will return any time soon. For several months, Haiti has been plagued by violent gangs who have killed and injured hundreds of people. According to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 1,544 people were killed in the first three months of 2024 and 826 were injured as of March 22. With former Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigning in March 2024 and without a functioning government, it is unclear when electricity will be restored. Although the mountainous town remains relatively calm, protests regularly block roads leading to the nearest major town, making it difficult to enter and leave Maniche.

Geordany Bellevue, 34, lawyer and teacher in Maniche, has to go to a friend’s house to recharge his computer. “I can’t afford a solar system,” he said. “I would need a lot of American dollars. I recharge my computer and my phone at a friend’s house at the risk of losing important calls, at least I don’t pay. »

This is not the case for Rosie Arius, a student at the Collège des Universitaires de Maniche who lives an hour from the city center. “Not only do I have to walk almost an hour, but I also have to have money. Otherwise, I can’t charge my phone,” she says. When she needs to study in the evening, Arius often uses a “tèt gridap” lamp, a sheet metal oil lamp equipped with a wick. To iron her uniform, she uses an iron heated with charcoal.

“It’s a real ordeal without electricity in our homes,” she said.

While living without electricity is a nightmare for most Maniche residents, those who can afford solar charging systems are taking advantage of the situation to open businesses – selling cold drinks and ice cream and charging electronic devices.

“I manage to recharge around 100 phones per day at 50 gourdes, [environs USD 0.38]. I also recharge light bulbs, backups for phones, computers, even rechargeable fans. Each device has a fixed recharge price. I can sell a lot of cold drinks when it’s hot,” says Jhonny Montumer, a young entrepreneur from Maniche. He sometimes recharges the phones of loved ones or strangers who cannot afford to pay for free. “I’m not going to let someone go home without recharging their phone because of 50 gourdes,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the person’s only distraction or the only way to communicate with their family. »

“I don’t have the means to get a solar system, I would need a lot of American dollars, I recharge my computer and my phone at a friend’s house at the risk of losing important calls, at least I don’t pay. »

GEORDANY BELLEVUE

LAWYER AND TEACHER

Maniche obtained electricity in 2001, thanks to a three-phase connection to the Saut Mathurine power station. A Haitian company, ELMECEN, coordinated with Haiti’s electric utility, Electricité D’Haïti (EDH), to build the plant’s 11-kilometer (7-mile) network. Construction began in 1980. At the time, the population of Camp-Perrin was around 10,000 households and Maniche was not yet connected to the network.

“People were skeptical and only began to believe [au projet] only with the arrival of the first shipment of poles,” recalls Senator Pierre François, who went to Maniche to help launch the project as director of EDH at the time.

In December 2001, with great fanfare, Maniche was illuminated for the first time.

“That day was a day of celebration,” says Geordany. “We were dancing and laughing as we saw the light in our homes for the first time. »

Residents of Maniche and Camp-Perrin tried in vain to restore electricity. Geordany, coordinator of the Maniche Youth Union for Development, doubts the authorities’ commitment to solving the problem. He says officials have yet to assess the wires and utility poles that have failed since the earthquake.

In the meantime, the youth group took action.

“My organization, UJEMAD, took steps with the CEO of Solo Energie, the mayor of Cavaillon Ernst Aris, which resulted in the donation and installation of around fifty street lamps which were installed in strategic points in the center city,” says Geordany.

Jorice Oremil, coordinator of Aksyon pou sove lavi, a non-profit association in Camp-Perrin, has not remained inactive either. Several demonstrations were organized for a single cause: the restoration of electricity in the region.

“We held demonstrations, meetings with the community and EDH officials without change,” says Oremil.

Roger Diogenes, from EDH, believes that the lack of responsibility of senior civil servants is to be blamed.

During a visit to the plant in 2023, an engineer in charge of the work at the time estimated that it would cost around 12 million gourdes. [90 517 dollars] to carry out repairs.

Oremil says that aside from some masonry work, not much else is happening at the plant. “A team from Port au Prince did the masonry work for the rearrangement of the space, so we are waiting for other technicians who must put the devices that had moved during the earthquake back in place. But we don’t know when. »

The country’s insecurity does not make things easier, which pushes Oremil to change tactics.

“The technicians cannot come to Camp-Perrin because of the roads blocked by armed gangs,” he specifies. “We made the decision to form a committee with people from the Camp-Perrin diaspora to raise money to move forward with the work on the power plant. »

Time is running out, he says. “We are not sitting idly by. No place can develop without electricity. »

Rose Hurguelle Point of the day is a journalist at Global Press Journal in Haiti.

“Global Press Journal is an international, award-winning, nonprofit publication that employs local women journalists in more than 40 independent news outlets across Africa, Asia and Latin America.”