by Anne Edgerton
ChildFund Disaster Management Team Leader
Anne is in Haïti this week, working with CBM, ChildFund’s partner on the ground.
Before I left, friends said to me that they did not understand what anyone was actually accomplishing in Haiti. All one hears on the news is how little is getting done, how horrible it is.
Having been here only three days, I can only report what I witness. What I am seeing getting done looks superhuman to me.
Imagine all public buildings collapsed or so damaged that people cannot go in. Most government records are inaccessible or gone. Imagine sleeping outside because you are afraid another tremor might occur at night. Add a breakdown in water, electricity and cell phone coverage, and you have a picture of Port-au-Prince right after the earthquake.
One month on, some residents have moved to the countryside, but many remain in scattered hillsides and parcels of land in the capital. There are literally thousands of locals and foreigners who are working together to quickly supply — and slowly rebuild — areas of the city.
One month on, the emergency response includes food distribution, constructing shelters and managing the hygiene and safety of hundreds of large camps. Electric and water service is returning to some parts of the city, some hours each day. Cell phone coverage is improving.
One month on, thousands of people speaking two out of the three operational languages here (French, English and Creole) share information and learning — both by Internet and in meetings tents and hospitals. They bemoan the numbers who still need assistance and the traffic snarls they as aid workers contribute to.
One month on, schools are not open. Those with disabilities — already among the poorest Haitians receiving only the most basic of services — will have their ranks swelled by those newly disabled in the earthquake. Their advocacy network is largely gone. It is now known that the Ministry of Social Affairs, which completely collapsed, took 29 civil servants’ lives with it.
How does one recover?
Slowly, with infinite patience and grace. As one civil affairs official told me yesterday: “Thank you so much for coming to help us in Haiti. We are so grateful for the attention and assistance.”
Today has been declared a National Day of Mourning in Haiti. I am reflecting on what I’ve witnessed during my short time here, and how to best demonstrate solidarity and kindness.
To support ChildFund’s partnership with CBM in Haiti, click here. Contributions made no later than Feb. 28, 2010, can be deducted from 2009 tax returns.