Hard going in Haiti

By James Addis     in Port-au-Prince.

A damaged apartment block in Port-au-Prince. (James Addis /WV)

I’ve been deployed to many humanitarian emergencies. For me, this is the most shocking I have ever seen. I will never forget the corpses piled outside the city morgue.

Travelling back to a modest hotel at 2a.m. last night, we drove past hundreds, maybe thousands, who would have no shelter that night and perhaps not for many nights to come. Some slept under vehicles. Some on sidewalks. Some dangerously on the road.

Some had set up chairs in the middle of the street and remained talking into the early hours. Vehicles were parked haphazardly. We had to ask bystanders for one to be moved. Our driver got out and helped push it. People were good-natured about it all.

So far I have not seen a hint of the violence that some have predicted may erupt if conditions do not improve. On the contrary, for now, a spirit of cooperation seems to prevail. At the hospital on my first day, where World Vision was distributing medical supplies, the hospital manager spoke enthusiastically of the volunteers who had come to help out. 

It took ages to reach the hotel. We lost our way several times in the narrow streets, many blocked by large bits of rubble.

The good news is that World Vision’s flights bringing emergency supplies have started to land. We are expecting several in the next few days. The next challenge will be to distribute it. Everything takes an age. It’s hard to find trucks and gasoline. The simplest things—getting a driver, finding an Internet connection, finding a place to stay at night—require a lot of effort and planning. It’s tiring work.

But one only has to walk the streets for a few seconds, take in the smells emanating from the makeshift camps, to realize that your own position is a thousand times better than that of those all around you.

Related post: Hope in the heartbreak (Jan. 14, 2010)

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