Day 4 (24th Jan, 2010)
I spend the day walking between two of the worst hit areas, Caribbean Market and the Montana Hotel Estate, home to many villas and ambassadors’ residences. They are almost entirely devastated. Between these two places I visit St Therese refugee camp, a new ‘tent city’ with 1500 people. While I am there a water distribution truck arrives and a few hundred people line up patiently to get water.
Another stop is a slum area on the mountain behind Petionville where no help has been provided. There is minimal damage here so the people are not considered to be in need of help, even though they are as hungry as anyone else in the city.
Finally I go down to Le Ville, or downtown and take a closer look at the devastation caused by the Jan 12th earthquake. Many of the buildings are completely ‘rubblized’ and tent cities have sprung up in every park and square that could be found.
On one street, a water mains has burst and dozens of children and adults are enjoying a refreshing bath in the impromptu fountain.
I am about to head back when I see a truck being chased by hundreds of people. It is being guarded by Sri Lankan UN soldiers and the people have guessed it is delivering aid. A few foreign photographers have jumped on and I get on too; the few Haitians who try are quickly swotted off by the unforgiving guards. Eventually we reach a small community but the aid workers are frustrated that the crowd has blocked the way and they have to make the distribution to the people now surrounding the truck. The crowd is made to line up before the truck opens its doors but they are disappointed to see it is only water that has been delivered. ‘We need food, not water’ I am told by many of the people.
Its dark now and I stand on a corner waiting for a tap tap, but seconds later a car pulls up and offers me a ride home. They must think it is too dangerous for me to be on the streets after dark. I’m grateful to be ‘rescued’.
Visit Lieutentant General Prosper Avril, a former President of Haiti, a friend of Jean Succar – we drop by to surf his wifi and send a few photos.
Take food to the Foundation for the Children of Haiti where I meet a team of doctors from Pittsburgh who have brought $30 million of medicine with them. They are only here for 4 days and are frustrated that they cannot find anywhere to operate. They say the hospital here misled them into believing they would be able to operate just to get the medicine secured. But when they arrive they find that a German team are already there and don’t need any help.
I go to the airport with them where they are camping and have a look around at the aid groups operating there. Amongst others I find ShelterBox, a UK charity, that a friend of mine is supporting. The tents they are distributing are being guarded by the Dutch army. Not just to stop Haitians from taking them, but other NGOs as well! The hospital of Miami has a huge operation working out of the airport with 2 huge tents and full medical facilities on the site.
I meet the United Sikhs, an organization sending volunteers to cook food everyday for thousands of people (www.unitedsikhs.org). It turns out to be an all day job with 3 unsuccessful attempts to distribute food. At first they decided that the people didn’t need the food, then we arrived at a well off neighborhood with music playing and a festival atmosphere that we think is following some kind of political agenda. At the next two locations near the National Palace the Haitian police that are protecting us think it is too dangerous to start distribution. The police seem to have given up on us and we leave without them to a quieter suburban area where we are finally able to give out food. Its relatively calm but getting dark so we have to be quick to give everything out.