Just over three weeks since we arrived here.
Sunday morning at the service in church there was a man in front of me with a bandage around his hand and two fingers missing. When I spoke to him he explained that he was an English teacher in a school when the quake happened and the school collapsed. He’d previously lived in New York for a number of years and spoke very good English. He spoke of the chaos in the school, the people trapped in the rubble and local people having to perform amputations to get people out from under the rubble. He’d been unable to access medical help for his hand for 3 days, and when he found a hospital he’d had to walk out again because of the smell from the bodies. Amputation had been taking place with only nerve blockers. He asked me if I could imagine how awful it was, the truth is I just couldn’t
There was a group visiting from Firefighters for Christ. It is apparently an international organisation of firefighters who volunteer to help at emergencies around this world, this group had been helping in an orphanage. They have to negotiate holiday or time off in lieu to go to emergencies and pay their own way, with no support from the fire service. An amazing group.
Rubble clearance is underway. Local people have been employed in cash for work schemes to start the clearance. The difficulty in this is that enormous mounds of rubble are on corners or on the pavements waiting to be cleared somewhere else. People are up on their roofs clearing off the rubble, just brushing it over the edge onto the ground below. If the building is up against the road you have to be careful to watch for flying masonry and all the dust. In the car the other day we came round the corner and had to clear some lumps of brick and concrete out of the road before carrying on. Drainage ditches were filled with rubble in the quake and the sides of the roads can be filled with rubble. Drainage needs to be a priority as the rains come ever closer. We’ve had a couple of half hour downpours, but only at night.
Operation Surge which has been the WFP food programme has now finished. 25lb bags of rice for people, within a couple of days the bags could be seen in use for other purposes, nothing is wasted when people are short of resources.
We’ve spent this week so far preparing for programme work in Leogane, writing up the needs assessment from last week, working on the strategy. The places the team visited were in the hills in Leogane commune, some of the communities had been 100% destroyed, nothing left. Latrines had all collapsed, problems with hand pumps and springs for water. Today 100 sani slabs arrived (plastic slabs for the tops of latrines, and we have cement and wood arriving tomorrow.) Two of the team are going up to Santo Domingo tomorrow, hopefully on a UN flight, to collect two vehicles which have arrived. It will be good to get them here and have a couple of reliable vehicles.
People are still very concerned about going back inside buildings. One of our new employees said the other day that his mother is very concerned that he is working in a building in case there should be another earthquake and it collapsed. A driver and one of the national staff were in the car today and it went down a bumpy road. They commented that it felt like being in an earthquake. It is obviously still just beneath the surface.
The shelter meeting the other day was still trying to find agencies to cover some of the spontaneous camps. Thoughts are now changing from emergency to start discussions on transitional shelter, the pipeline takes a long time to set up. Current guidelines mean that the transitional shelters are likely to be of a higher standard than many of the original homes.