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