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The smell of diesel and petrol fumes bog the wet air as the engines thraw and thunk and the fleet two wheelers whip up the mud and rubble through chance gaps of road and pavement. I am in Haiti and the rain is against them, but what isn’t? My western features pull their faces up, round and through but why wouldn’t they? Just another out of place blan. The dignity has been chipped away for a very long time and a bit of scepticism greets any westerner who pitches up like a preacher, teacher or Sunday speaker just to tangle up the ropes a little more and to change what? Not much generally.
I grip the back of a motorbike heading back up the crumbling route to Gougeon, just outside Petion-Ville in Port au Prince. The clouds have really opened up as the rim of a cyclone brushes past the island. The roads which somehow manage to squeeze through a consistent stream of traffic, including regular fistfuls of UN vehicles, are in a state unimaginable for any functioning capital city. In their stamped vehicles and casual cream gear the then UN staff appear united in perturbance as the water pours over the roads. As the downpour continues the troops look on, gun-hoe and loaded, just in case any civil unrest brakes out as everyone races for shelter
With all the excitement as I wind through the capital, it is easy to forget that for most people here the rain brings down a heave of other problems with it. While the precarious housing of 400 000 people in camps feel the pressure of the flash flood, and the fragile landscape gives way to landslides, the rain now spreads cholera; a virus which has become endemic in Haiti.