Haiti

CHF-Haiti Blog Update, Sunday January 17, 2010 - Areas beyond Port-au-Prince, Relief efforts underway in Port-au-Prince

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Areas beyond Port-au-Prince

CHF received a huge number of information of areas beyond Port-au-Prince from our Field Director Bob Fagen. Bob and his entirely Haitian team based in Petit Goave have been supporting the Boy Scouts and Red Cross with a donation of tools such as wheelbarrows and shovels, plus loads of facemasks, shirts, hats, and gloves. The Boy Scouts have been key to rescue efforts in the city and showed an impressively organized response to the earthquake in Petit Goave. CHF is proud to be partnering with them.

Bob was able to travel beyond Petit Goave to Grand Goave and Legoane. Some of his observations are below.

Grand Goave

- The main Catholic Church on the Place Publique in the center of town and its rectory were both destroyed. We were able to speak to the priest who had survived and he is in good spirits, in spite of the destruction

- A tent city has been erected on the Place Publique. At night it swells to 5,000 people. There are 5-6 similar tent cities throughout Grand Goave, each with 3,000-5,000 people at night.

- Grand Goave, while battered by the earthquake, is not as visibly devastated as either Petit-Goave or Leogane. However, Grand Goave depended on Petit Goave for much of its potable water, and the shortages in Petit Goave have significantly affected Grand Goave. Considering the tent city phenomenon and the lack of water, it is only a matter of time before disease becomes an issue in Grand Goave.

Leogane

- MINUSTAH (UN mission in Haiti) were undertaknig a protein cookie distribution in front of Leogane City Hall to mostly women and children.

- Much of Leogane, both downtown and the surrounding area, was flattened by the quake and unconfirmed estimates put the death toll as high as 100,000. We sincerely hope this is far higher than the reality.

- Between Leogane and L'Acul we passed a destroyed water pump that is indicative of the below-the-surface damage that has crippled many wells and reservoirs in the region. Potable water is and will continue to be a major issue for the region until water supplies can be repaired or replaced.

- The Ecole National Anna Karina, a high school in the city center of Leogane, was flattened completely. Tragically class was in session at the time.

- Churches appear to have suffered extraordinary damage from the quake, with most crumbling, especially the larger structures.

- The financial system in affected cities has been paralyzed by the earthquake. While some supplies are available, prices have skyrocketed and people simply do not have access to what little money they have in the bank.

- We saw collapsed wooden houses on stilts, common in historic Leogane, a city of approximately 134,000. Many of the multi-level Leogane homes fell to the ground after the stilts and supporting beams collapsed underneath them. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 80-90% of Leogane was destroyed by the earthquake.

CHF plans to work with relief agencies in these hard hit areas and wants to draw attention to the plight of the Haitian people outside of Port-au-Prince, who are suffering the same privations and tragedies.

Relief efforts underway in Port-au-Prince

CHF International is working closely with other local and international relief agencies and helping with the immediate relief effort. As well as giving supplies to rescue workers such as gloves, face masks, pick axes, shovels and sledge hammers, tomorrow we will be transporting 750 hygiene/kitchen kits from St. Marcs to Port-au-Prince to be distributed to homeless families, needing shelter in the capital.

CHF believes in moving from relief to development as quickly as possible. Read more about the approach CHF will be taking in the next few weeks, and how we have responded in the past in Haiti, Indonesia, Gaza and Georgia here: http://www.chfinternational.org/files/CHF-relief-factsheet.pdf

Our staff member, Kristie van de Wetering, sent the following observations from Port-au-Prince yesterday.

- Water trucks delivering water - many companies open for private delivery (to homes and such); smaller trucks along the road giving free water to Internally Displaced People (IDP)

- A lot of "agua gratis" - Dominican company - stopping at random places giving free water

- Small water distribution centers are open for business

- Transportation to the Dominican Republic (DR) running

- Not a lot of traffic on the road - public transport running as usual

- Market ladies on the street on the street cooking and selling

- Haitian National Police out in larger numbers today than before

- People on the street - people still in shock; blank stares; - going about daily business

- Rescue efforts by private citizens still ongoing

- Many people at US and Canadian embassy gates

- Another observation: one of our staff hear said that he observed a distribution of essential items by UN soldiers on Place Boyer - one of the public squares in Petion Ville turned into an IDP camp. He said he has never seen such an orderly distribution in Haiti. Everyone in lines. No hostility. No violence. No fighting.

We are all encouraged to hear that there is food and water reaching an increasing number of people, and that the private sector is still functioning on both the formal and informal level to some degree - a key to getting Haiti back up and running. Also incredibly encouraging, in spite of media reports of violence, are reports of quiet and orderly aid distributions.