East of Port-au-Prince, things are calmer than in the city. The massive overcrowding of the capital is much less on show here and even the destruction seems lesser. But then, there are fewer houses here.
It is a peaceful place; smallholdings with banana plants and chickens stand on the roadside. But the aftermath of January 12 lingers here, too. Most houses have sustained damage of some variety; every third or fourth has been completely demolished.
A small orphanage sits among the scrub at end of a stony lane, found only by following the lead of a rusty, hand-painted sign directing us to the ‘orphelinat‘.
When the earthquake struck, their headmistress tells us, all of the children were in an upstairs room of their house watching a documentary “about how children live in France”. Then the building started to shake.
“The bigger children grabbed the smaller children and ran down the stairs”, she told us.
Seconds later, the whole building collapsed. Looking at it now, buckled and angry looking in the midday sun, it is a miracle nobody was hurt. The two floors of the school building, across a small yard now littered with debris and shards of their former life, is also completely fell. Inside the rubble there can be seen a smashed blackboard, the last day’s lesson still lingering, the broken desks strewn drunkenly amid the rubble.
Caritas has worked with this orphanage for some time, providing the nuns with the food necessary to feed 55 children. But since the earthquake, more children have come. In fact, the number of children at the orphelinat is now 96.
“Many children have come,” we are told by their carer. “People from all around have brought us children that they have found. We don’t know where they have come from or where their parents are.”Some, like Nachania Merisma, a quiet 11 year old girl, sat playing with her toy xylophone as the Caritas food was brought out. Others still had the pain of the past two weeks etched on their faces.
This is not the biggest distribution of food happening in Haiti this week, but personal needs cannot be measure in terms of the size of a population. These children lost everything for the second time when the earthquake struck.
Caritas is there to see that, this time at least, life can go on.
To date, Caritas partners in Haiti have provided food to 108,678 people, and non-food relief items to 21,736 people.
We have supported St Francois de Sales hospital with medical materials and supplies, volunteer doctors and nurses, food, water and other support to expand emergency medical care. We established three functioning operating rooms – conducting an average of 12 severe surgical cases per day – as well as a laboratory, X-Ray room and blood bank at the same hospital. A public health campaign has also been launch, carried out through megaphone, leaflets and radio.