In the past week, the city of Les Cayes has had power exactly twice. Once for about two hours during the final game of the World Cup and again last night, for 7 hours straight (an attempt from the company to assuage a population in the dark). That’s about 10 total hours of power for an entire city for an entire week.
At Espwa we have two backup generators in addition to stored battery power where we live at the guest house. It’s not always reliable, especially with the price of fuel skyrocketing in recent weeks, but it ensures that we can generate our own power for at least 8 hours out of the day. The past week we’ve been trying to work in those hours: scrambling to send emails, only fleeting moments when the finance department can get online to do their work, and countless hours each night spent trying to sleep in the still, hot, mosquito-ridden air of Southern Haiti.
Comparatively we have it easy.
In other parts of Southern Haiti people don’t have backup generators or batteries. In the streets of the city, the lights have been out for almost the entire week making it dangerous to walk alone at night in the dark. Students have been unable to study for exams at night without a candle. Those who make a living selling refrigerated meats or beverages have lost their livelihoods. Few have been able to charge their cellphones so many cannot call the police if they are in trouble. And these are just a few among a host of other problems that arise when a country’s electricity company decides not to provide power.
Today it’s come to a head, people have had enough. For a country with an already-weakened infrastructure, a week without power only creates more instability and Les Cayes is demanding to see a change. We’ll be staying home today because in town a peaceful protest is planned to get the attention of the power company: EDH. Although I’d love to be a part of it, we’ve been told it won’t be safe for Americans to be in town today. People will stop traffic, stay home from work, and peacefully voice their opinions. The country can’t continue to function without the support of EDH or an alternative source of power. The 7 hours of uninterrupted electricity last night, although heavenly, wasn’t nearly enough to make people forget the problems.
Hopefully the protests will lead to a better solution, for now we wait.
**The post is brought to you by battery power, charged last night for 7 hours by EDH.**