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Port au Prince scrappers

William Farrington | Haiti

Youths searching the former Finance Ministry building for scrap metal in downtown Port au Prince.

As Haitians were struggling to recover after January 2010 earthquake, eleven months later a cloud of uncertainty hung over the capital, thousands still lived in tent camps, and a cholera epidemic had spread to Port au Prince.

Scrap metal scavengers had become a common sight, and could be seen pushing large carts of metal towards DG scrapyard on the outskirts of town. There it was weighed, loaded into containers to be shipped to the US for processing.

These entrepeneurs thrived in the new reality of post earthquake Port au Prince. The high cost of building materials and prices paid for scrap metal and downtown streets lined with damaged buildings created a niche.

As presidential elections approached, survival was on the minds of many and men could even be seen working to recover anything of value out of the former Ministry of Finance.

In December of 2010, I was in Port au Prince working as a journalist covering the elections and preparing a one year update on the earthquake’s effects. One afternoon I noticed men carrying metal out of the Ministry of Finance building and went inside to take a closer look. I found the building almost completely gutted by fire and severely damaged by the eathquake. Men and boys were working, removing metal and wood. The dismantling of a beautiful old government building for scrap was a startling sight to an outsider but perhaps sense to the hundreds living in the nearby tent encampment on the Champs de Mars. In my down time over the next few days i followed several and learned more about what they were doing.

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