Well I have been here in Port au Prince now for 5 days. The weather is quite hot and sticky which is a problem for sleeping well at night. Black hawks regularly fly overhead and the sound of enormous groups of people waiting for food distributions come over the walls. We have the US military calling by to check up on us most days but the guards don’t let them in!
We have the camp set up and now have a cook to wash up and prepare a main meal for us in the evening, it makes a big difference for people coming in after a long day. The showers are set up and working well, cold water, but it does wake you up in the morning. The generator starts up at 6am so it is an early start for everyone.
A couple of American school buses turned up the other evening, full of young people who were on their way to Leograne. They had come from the north and were just staying in the compound overnight, mostly they slept on the bus or out in the open. Today a helicopter landed in the compound to take on a young boy with two bad fractures. He was being flown up to a hospital in the north where they had the facilities to deal with the breaks. The church is wondering whether to allow regular use of the helicopter for medical purposes and this was the trial. It added excitement to the day.
The food distribution which goes on each day from the church is delayed today, the food truck didn’t turn up until 2pm and people had been waiting since 9am this morning, it is very hot today. I’ve been helping the pastor try and get some order into the registration system, it is time consuming for the volunteers for a few days, taking all the names and details, but hopefully will be better in the long run. We’ve set up a coloured registration system because there is a high level of illiteracy. Yesterday there were just under 400 families (with an average family size of 7) who came and collected supplies, so about 2,800 being fed. Sitting here in the office the worship band in the church was playing as the people queued for food. Many of the songs they are singing are ones we sing at home every Sunday. Thousands of miles apart and yet joined by worship.
I visited the UN Munistah site yesterday for the first time. It is the headquarters for the UN response prior to the earthquake and has now become very much like an IDP camp for aid workers. Their tents are so close together and out in the bright sun, I’m told the MAF site is the same. Water everywhere is a real struggle. We are very fortunate and blessed by our leafy compound. We may have helicopters and occasional shots outside but it is by comparison very tranquil.
I went to the first of my cluster meetings yesterday on hygiene promotion. The discussion was mostly around the importance of consistent messaging with the government and all the different agencies. There are concerns around water treatment. It isn’t always clear whether it is treated or not and people are also getting confused with usage of aquatabs. As with many education messages it is the application that is difficult, even if you know what you should do. Latrines are a major concern. With so many tent cities within Port au Prince it is not possible to dig latrines at all the sites, the ground just isn’t suitable, emergency measures using large water tanks are in use but the question of what to do in the medium term before people have new homes remain.
Many people are out now clearing rubble from their homes, but are beginning to rebuild from what remains, trying to create some kind of structure from the debris, it obviously won’t stand up to another quake and what will happen in the next hurricane season, only a couple of months away, is a real concern. It is still very strange to go down some streets and see very little damage and then turn a corner and see massive structures just crumpled to the ground.
We’ve heard that the President has said no more tents should come into the country and only interim shelters should be built, how this is going to work isn’t clear. There are so many tent cities, in any open space, it is hard to imagine what is going to happen over the next few months when the rains begin.