Lacking TV and radio, Haiti’s displaced earthquake refugees get their stories from the big screen

By Dean Graber

Nearly five months after the Jan. 12 earthquake, more than one million Haitians are living in tents and under tarps in some 1,322 camps. Hundreds of thousands have no access to radio or TV, but outdoor screens are going up across the capital, Port-au-Prince, and 16 camps are screening a series of informative, entertaining soap operas that are filling needs for information, The New York Times reports.

“First, Haitians received food and shelter; now the moving image has joined the humanitarian response,” Damien Cave reports. A handful of organizations are hurrying to produce soap operas and other programs that will inform residents how to secure their tents, tarps and mosquito nets, and how to stay safe and healthy in the sprawling camps, he says. One such soap opera, part of a 16-episode series financed by the United Nations, portrayed con men in the camps trying to convince residents to redeem their registration cards for cash.

“Several other groups — including FilmAid [International], founded by Caroline Baron, who produced “Capote” — are also setting up programs to show movies and train Haitians to shoot their own,” Cave says. “And while the result may be amusing, the impetus was serious: organizers say the programs will fill in for a government that has failed to communicate effectively, letting rumors and schemes spread among those most desperate for help.”

Separately, coalitions of Haitian and international organizations working to rebuild Haiti’s food supply are using community radio and media campaigns to promote policies for more national food production and less reliance on imports, development worker Bev Bell writes in an essay posted on DailyKos.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.