Tag Archives: haiti
By Conor O’Loughlin, Communications Officer, Trócaire (Caritas Ireland), in Port-au-Prince
Haiti is not an easy place to be a child. It has the highest rates of infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the Western Hemisphere. Diarrhea, respiratory infections, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are the leading causes of death. Thousands of the country’s schools were ruined in the earthquake of January 12, and even before the earthquake only half of children attended primary school. Less than one in fifty finish secondary school.
As many as 2,000 children are trafficked to the Dominican Republic every year. Sometimes their parents cannot afford to look after them. Sometimes they are trafficked by force. Many end up working in the sex trade for western tourists and others end up in domestic service for little or no wages.
Often, those who stay fare little better.
Diego Jean is a little man of twelve. Continue reading
A quelques jours de l’anniversaire du premier mois du tremblement de terre qui a décimé Haïti en janvier dernier, le gouvernement haïtien a publié des chiffres alarmants sur l’ampleur de la catastrophe dans le pays. Si l’on compte aujourd’hui plus de 230 000 morts, le bilan devrait augmenter rapidement dans les jours à venir, les décombres commençant seulement à être dégagés. A l’heure actuelle, on recense 300.000 personnes soignées pour blessures, 250.000 maisons détruites et 30.000 commerces perturbés.
Le prix des biens de consommation est de plus en plus élevé et les services arrivent à saturation. Le secteur le plus touché : celui de la santé, avec l’arrivée en masse de victimes du séisme grièvement blessées.
As we approach the one month anniversary of the earthquake that decimated Haiti 12 January, the Haitian government has released updated figures that give a chilling account of the destruction.
The death toll stands at over 230,000 people, around the same number who were killed in the 2004 Asia tsunami (in 14 countries). With the rubble only starting to be cleared in Haiti, the figure can be expected to rise.
250,000 houses were destroyed and 30,000 businesses disrupted. Approximately 502,000 people remain homeless throughout Port-au-Prince alone, spread between 322 different camps.
The government fears it could take ten years to rebuild Haiti, one of the world’s least developed countries, to the same level it was 11 January. Reconstruction efforts will begin after the initial relief effort has finished, but we’re still in the initial phase.
The response, one of the largest seen anywhere in the world for years, is continuously adapting to the changing environment. Continue reading
The G7 group, which includes the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Japan, announced at the weekend that they will cancel Haiti’s US$ 1.2 billion outstanding unilateral debt.
Increasing pressure to do so were came from various NGOs, including Caritas Internationalis, for the international community to help Haiti recover from the catastrophic earthquake of January 12.
Caritas congratulates the G7 for their action and also applauds all the campaigners who put pressure on their governments for speedy action.
First Grade Prayers:
Dear God the Father
You are the Father of all nations
Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus into the world.
Please bless Haiti. Keep them safe. Be with them in their troubles.
Most importantly, keep their faith alive.
Please take the people in Haiti who died into heaven.
We ask these things through Christ our Lord.
Haiti has a soundtrack. Before the earthquake, Port-au-Prince swelled with the noise of two million people in a city that could comfortably accommodate probably one quarter of them. Then on January 12 the air exploded with the deep bass of the earth itself on the move. Then the screams and laments, the orchestra of the damned. The next day was quiet. People were too dazed and shocked.
On the first night after the disaster people started to sing. On the streets, in groups, afraid to go back indoors, they prayed and sang by candlelight. They sang for a better tomorrow because their yesterdays had failed so spectacularly to given them anything to sing for.
Now, more than two weeks later, the urban cacophony has returned. Clapped out cars jostle for space and attention on the roads. Cockerels seem to inhabit every patch of grass ensuring that nobody in this city can sleep much past 5am. People – so many people – are back on the streets, selling their wares at the tops of their voices.
But there is a new sound here now. One that makes the air vibrate almost continuously in a way that makes you think the much-feared second earthquake could be upon us. It is the constant thump of low flying military helicopters delivering aid and personnel all over the city.
There is no question that the logistical might of the United States Marines is impressive. They have mobilised aircraft, boats and vehicles with incredible speed. They have succeeded in delivering tons of urgent food and medical supplies to the stricken people of Haiti.
Caritas itself has benefited from both the US military and UN peacekeepers, who have provided security for aid distributions in Port-au-Prince and Leogane and helped our aid ships dock. We’re immensely grateful for that.
But military personnel are not aid experts and having such a large military presence brings with it tensions. Continue reading
On a seaside road winding north of Port-au-Prince, two cars separate us from a brightly-painted bus trundling along the dusty strip of gravel. One by one they overtake the bus, their white roofs carrying with them a white burst of sunshine in the midday heat.
We move closer to the back of the bus, slowly changing gears, and get to within a few metres before we saw it. Him.
There was a man. Dangling. Wedged between the back door of the bus and the ladder that carries luggage and the occasional passenger to sit on the roof.
His head and his arms were limp and his feet were dragging and bumping grotesquely along the road.
Someone in the car with me screamed. The driver pushed his fist into the car’s horn to try to attract the bus driver’s attention. I rolled down my back window, hoisted myself up onto the sill of the door and started waving frantically at the passengers on the roof. They saw me but didn’t seem to react. I shouted and screamed at them but my noise was lost in the backward rushing air.
We pulled alongside the driver and he looked at us but ignored my signal to pull over. Pulling back into the right lane we slowed down and the bus eventually stopped. We all jumped out and raced to the back. The man was still there. His eyes closed; his forehead dented against the yellow paint of the bus.
We lifted him out of his entanglement and lowered him gently onto the road. We tried to look for signs of life. There were none. Continue reading
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.” Continue reading
There is a pervasive narrative around the crisis in Haiti about levels of chaos and violence in Port-au-Prince hampering the delivery of aid. But as the United Nations’ humanitarian aid chief John Holmes points out, “every disaster is chaos because that’s what disasters produce”.
Experience has taught us that in crisis situations such as this, the weaker voices in society, already vulnerable to abuse, become more so – including women, children, the elderly and the infirm. Aid is getting through (Caritas alone has already fed well over 100,000 people since the earthquake struck) and now as we slowly move towards the recovery phase, a new set of concerns come to the fore.
As the dust begins to settle here in Haiti and we get a better picture of where the relief effort goes now, we need to think beyond simply meeting basic needs – food will not keep communities safe from abuse and water will not protect them from violence.
In addition to the devastating death toll, hundreds of thousands of families are now displaced from their homes, the vast majority staying in insecure informal camps and shelters. Weapons are widely available. People’s means of earning a living have been largely destroyed. Family members have been separated, with loved ones still missing, including the heads of many households, leaving young children and vulnerable family members to fend for themselves.
As the world continues to help the beleaguered Haitians, the aid community is focusing on work beyond relief distributions alone. Food will not keep communities safe from abuse and water will not protect them from violence.