Haitians abandon forgotten town, isolated for over a decade

BOUCAN FERDINAND, Haiti, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Near the bottom of the island of Hispaniola in southeast Haiti is a forgotten village, cut off from its own country, and slowly emptying as its residents leave for the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Without health services, electricity, or paved roads, Boucan Ferdinand lost its only road to the nearest Haitian town, Bois Negresse, in devastating floods back in 2004.

Some of its residents have left for the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and others cling on to a precarious life. Many have crossed illegally into the more prosperous Dominican Republic.

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Haitians abandon forgotten town
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Haitians abandon forgotten town

Anita bathes his son Romenson Exalus at their house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 10, 2018.

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Trees are seen at night in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. Picture taken with long exposure. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A man, who goes by name Polo, rests in the kitchen of his house as he gathers with family and friends at the end of the day in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 8, 2018. "I'm tired of searching the Haitian radio stations and I can't tune them," Polo said. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Residents dance at a bar in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 8, 2018. Sunday evening is the only time when the bar is open and residents gather there to socialise and dance. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Romenson Exalus plays with a tire at his house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 10, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A boy plays with an improvised ball in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A neighbour and a relative take care of newborn Rebeca at her house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 8, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Kids gather and read school books in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 4, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A boy carries sticks to be used as firewood in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 9, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A motorbike is parked beside a bed inside a house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A family eats dinner in a makeshift kitchen outside a house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
Smoke rises up from a pile at a yard in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
Catechist director Jean Pierre Biennelus walks towards a Catholic church in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Children attend a class at the school at a Baptist church in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A boy laughs as he spends time with friends in a house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
Residents look as Senfleur St. Pierre, known as Mello, who works on the frame of a new facility for a Protestant church in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
Dalina Paul lies on a bed reading, as her sister looks from the doorframe at their house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 9, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Omel Simexant makes a rope to tie animals using and old sac in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 5, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Children play outside a house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A man walks next to laundry hanging to dry in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 5, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A boy rests on a pile of avocados in the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, at El Guacate military post, Independencia Province, Dominican Republic, October 2, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Brothers Manes (L) and Fresnels Exalus (R), and Naida Ogisten have a snack with relatives in the house of Manes and Naida in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 8, 2018. "These people (politicians) win... and they forget about us," Fresnels said. "When there is drought, we have to go to fetch water from the Dominican (Republic). They don't even send a little bag here," Manes said. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Naida Ogisten walks with her daughter in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 8, 2018.

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Cristera Jusma hands a towel to Enol St. Pierre as he gets ready to go to the church in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 8, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

A woman leans on a bed mattress belonging to a neighbour, who came back after years of living in the Dominican Republic, in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Aurana Augustin, known as Timatant, a vendor, rests on a bed in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. Timatant has a partial paralysis that impedes her to do her job. "There are no doctors here. It's easier to go to Duverger (Dominican Republic). There is a truck to go there," she said. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Boys walk along a trail, that was used in the past by terrain vehicles connecting with Bois Negresse, on the outskirts of Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Children carry a mattress of a neighbour, who came back after years of living in the Dominican Republic, in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 10, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Believers gather to pray inside a house in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 6, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Viviana Vulcenat gets ready in her house before going to the church in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A deaf man stands as he wears a pumpkin mask in a street in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
Benjamens St. Pierre carries a shotgun as he patrols the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic looking for people smuggling charcoal, in the province of Independencia, Dominican Republic, October 3, 2018. St. Pierre said that they advise the producers not to make charcoal. Some people in Haiti blame charcoal production as one of the reasons for existing deforestation. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A man cuts a tree in the fields of Chapotin, with Boucan Ferdinand and the Dominican Republic in the background, on the trail that connects Boucan Ferdinand and Chapotin, Haiti, April 11, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
Girls and a woman harvest corn in a field in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 2, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A woman puts corncobs in her pockets as she harvests corn in a field in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, October 2, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A man rides a motorbike across the trail that connects Boucan Ferdinand with the border between Haiti and Dominican Republic, on the outskirts of Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 8, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Tipiti cooks pasta as she combs her daughter's hair in Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 8, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Women use a homemade tool to make holes and sow seeds in a field near Boucan Ferdinand, Haiti, April 6, 2018. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
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"They do not have access to basic social services, this situation is at the root of the mass migration to the Dominican Republic," said Jean Gilles Viola, mayor of the municipality that governs Boucan Ferdinand and around 20 other villages.

Those who remain live in thatch and stick hovels, collecting rainwater to drink and at constant risk of infectious diseases.

Some children, in impeccable blue uniforms, walk to a school in the town of Chapotin - a trip that takes an hour and a half over a narrow path, impassable in the rainy season.

In the village are two makeshift classrooms, run by the Baptist and Catholic chapels.

"This year my children will not go to school," said village farmer Wilber Jean in October, as his children played nearby.

"Here you pay a ton. There," pointing across the border, "the president pays."

Children collect firewood or graze small flocks of goats and sheep to help their parents. During planting time, many skip school in order to help on the farms, earning less than $2 a day.

In the mornings, the village smells of burning firewood brought by the children as the women make breakfast: sometimes there is pasta, but more likely coffee and a piece of bread. Often there is rice and beans. Meat, a luxury.

Haiti, which according to the World Bank is the poorest country in the Americas, has not recovered from a powerful earthquake that hit it on Jan. 12 2010, leaving more than 200,000 dead.

The countryside has been emptying out. Less than half of Haitians live in rural communities compared to 84 percent in 1960, World Bank data shows.

Boucan Ferdinand seems to have fallen off the map. Radios mainly capture Dominican signals.

"I'm tired of looking for stations in Haiti," complained Polo, a 64-year-old man who returned here with his wife and one of his grandchildren after spending more than 40 years in the Dominican Republic.

Aurana Augustin 'Timatant' sold bread and sweets until a few months ago when the left half of her body was paralyzed. Today, the grandmother spends her days lying in bed.

The nearest Haitian health center is across a mountain, so she has been crossing the border on a mule to seek care in the Dominican town of Duverge.

The local government wants to rebuild the road taken out by the floods but lacks the financial means, said the mayor.

(Reporting by Andres Martinez Casares, Additional reporting by Cheslie Jean Baptiste, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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