Thursday, February 11
Two weeks later
Well, it is just over two weeks since I left the UK. The weather here is such that the micro fleeces I packed in my luggage seem rather ridiculous, though they do make a good pillow. We have had two nights were there was a scattering of rain, but nights are generally very hot and sticky. The dust is truly beginning to settle. When I arrived here, and had my head torch on at night, I could see dust moving in the air, now it is only insects dive bombing the light. We had a brief and wonderful day or so when wifi arrived, but then died. We’ve tried all sorts of possible fixes but now a router is on its way from the UK which may solve the problems. In the meantime we are just left with the sat phone to upload.
At church on Sunday I was sitting next to a young man who told me how he had finished school and then worked to save up to go to university. He paid his fees at the beginning of the year but now the university is destroyed and he has nowhere to go and has lost his money. The reality of every day lives comes home to you time and time again. We have been interviewing for staff, many of whom had jobs or were at university prior to the earthquake. They have now lost their means of education and employment. Outside the UN logs base the other day I saw many people standing with CV’s in orange envelopes waiting to hand them to anyone who would take them. We have been inundated with requests for work and I passed another agency door today and saw people queuing with their orange envelopes.
One thing that our partners here are having to deal with is staff who have lost homes and possessions, how to provide for them and to make grants to enable them to having suitable housing. This will also be a consideration for us as we take on permanent staff.
Queues are everywhere. The WFP food distributions are still continuing this week and there are hold ups of traffic everywhere. The US army and WFP seem to have commandeered all the Avis rentacars as I’ve seen many with both Avis and WFP stickers on, or Avis cars filled with American troops. I passed the Canadian embassy today and there was a queue of several hundred people along the pavement outside, everyone applying for visas, the American embassy is the same. All the banks have long queues outside, as do Western Union and all the mobile phone shops as people try and pick up money transfers coming in from family and friends. Food prices are still rising sharply and people are struggling to afford the food that is now in the shops. I went to a supermarket today and prices on almost all food items were more expensive than in the UK.
To avoid the traffic queues and to get to meetings one of the drivers, Jimmy Bruce (I kid you not and he is Haitian, not Scottish), takes me down the back roads. It is off road driving but in many ways makes me think of living on a giant building site. The roads are grey white with the dust, there is rubble on the roads and half built houses everywhere. There looks to have been a lot of building going on at the time of the earthquake and it just adds to the surreal experience of a building development going on for miles. Steel wire protrudes from the lumps on concrete and electric cables lie carelessly over, between and alongside houses. Today I passed a Goodyear tyre shop. To the front of the building there was a massive chunk of concrete, shaped with steel wires sticking out. Maybe it was decorative before. Standing on top of it were three men trying to break it apart to move it. The comedy of the moment was them standing there with toe tector boots, hard hats, but only a hammer between the three of them.
The work on the food distribution at the church compound goes on, slowly some order is coming out of the chaos. A large water filter has been installed, it isn’t up and running yet but they are looking to start water distribution as well, I’ve talked to them about trying to do this in conjunction with hygiene promotion. Some thought needs to go into it before they start but it will get there. Friday is 12th Feb, which means one month after the quake. A national holiday and day of mourning has been declared. The church has a fast for the day and will be holding a memorial at 4pm. They have just asked people to bring the name and age of the person who died to try and ensure that the service is not too long, I’m sure it will be an emotional time for many attending. On Sunday we sang the song which starts ‘Everyone needs compassion’ and has the chorus ‘Saviour He can move the mountains, my God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save’ brings a whole new meaning to the words.
Our assessment team is out in Leogane at the moment. It is a very rural area and they thought they may even have to use mules, but extreme off road driving has proved possible, though I’m not sure what the vehicles thought of it. Tearfund is the first agency into those areas and they are desperately in need, even before the quake. Some communities have literally just been turned to dust. The concrete is a poor quality and just crumbles away. Some wooden houses have remained standing, but landslides have landed large bolders into the middle of some homes.
Posted by Jacqui W-G at 15:55