Haiti Crisis UPDATE

January 18, 2010
Written by Susan Finucane, Program Officer, Concern Worldwide US
Photo by Kim Haughton

Seeing Haiti through this untimely natural disaster is our first priority. We’ve worked in the country for some time, but now our efforts must come together in order to save lives and continue to connect help to where it is needed. Along the way, we’re meeting resilient survivors and miraculous newborns.

Susan Finucane is a Program Officer for Concern Worldwide US, and was until only a few months ago, Documentation Officer for Concern in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she lived and worked for over two years. She has been deployed to Haiti to help our team on the ground respond to the catastrophic humanitarian crisis caused by the January 12th earthquake, which utterly razed Port-au-Prince and has left 3.5 million in need of food, water, shelter, and medicine.

As we drive through the streets there is devastation at every turn, more bodies have been placed on the side of the road in the hope that they are lifted soon. The stench of the deceased lingers on. We arrive at the Salvation Army health centre, where Concern has been working since August 2008; it is now a camp for hundreds of Haitians.

While chatting with them I meet Lenor, 26, who yesterday gave birth to a little girl, Celinda – her second child. ‘I live in Saint Martin…. I lived in Saint Martin… my house is gone so I have been here (in the camp) since Tuesday night. I was so worried for my baby but she is fine.’ Behind Lenor an elderly man is being treated for a leg wound – his hospital bed is a wheelbarrow with his leg propped up on a piece of wood.  A small boy cries beside him as iodine is poured on his head where there is a gaping wound.

I ask Lenor if I can take a picture of her new arrival, a miracle amidst all this heartache, as the camera appears the children flock around me asking me to take their picture. Their smiles are like rays of sunshine in this makeshift camp and I am made aware, once again, just how resilient the Haitian people are. Through the children I see a man approaching me, he too is a new father, ‘my wife had him yesterday, and his name is Friendly. I am filled with so many emotions right now. The earthquake destroyed my home and my sister was killed, my daughter was trapped in the rubble for four days but she was pulled free yesterday. She is ok, resting in another camp’ Pierre tells me. Miracles do happen. This morning a further three people were rescued from the rubble at the collapsed supermarket. 60 were rescued yesterday, the search continues.

Their smiles are like rays of sunshine in this makeshift camp and I am made aware, once again, just how resilient the Haitian people are.

For Concern we have already conducted rapid needs assessments of the worst affected areas including 10 health centers where Concern was working. Concern has carried out distributions of critical medical supplies, plumpy nut and water to the State University Hospital. Distributions of pick axes (to clear rubble), surgical gloves, disinfectant, water purification tablets, water and first aid supplies to community leaders in two of our project areas. There are three relief charters carrying supplies (tents, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, water pumps, bladder tanks and plumpy nuts) on the way, Tom Arnold flies in with one tonight.

Over the coming days Concern will work tirelessly to provide as much support and assistance to the people of Haiti – a 10,000 litre bladder tank is being prepared, as I type by our water and sanitation specialist who arrived from Santo Domingo this morning. I will keep you updated on Concerns progress here in Port-au-Prince.

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