Large scale water distribution gets underway in Haiti

January 21, 2010
Written by Susan Finucane
Photo by Ed Kenney

Just days after an earthquake rocked Haiti to its core, an aftershock hit miles outside of Port-au-Prince, further stirring up tension. While the extent of the aftershock’s damage is unknown, we do know that volunteers still showed up for water distributions, and that there were many who showed up to calmly receive.

It’s 6am, I am just getting ready to go to the office: The floor starts to shake. I start to shake. The door bursts open, and my colleague asks, “Should we run?” We stare at each other. The shaking stops.

Young boy at Concern Water distribution.

Young boy at Concern Water distribution, who had just poured a small bucket of water over his face. Photo: Ed Kenney, Concern Worldwide

The epicenter of the aftershock today was only 35 miles away from Port-au-Prince and it measured 6.1 on the Richter scale—this only over a week after the initial hit. No one is certain of the physical damage from today’s quake, but I do know it has damaged the spirits of the people here. People whose houses remained intact had decided to move back in last night, only to be awoken by this shock.  The earthquake fear and tension has increased significantly.

Despite this, everyone turned up to work today at Concern, even staff who lost family and friends and their own homes—and together, we pushed hard and began a large-scale distribution of water. In the urban slum of St. Martin, our team took a water truck with a capacity of 3,000 gallons directly to the people—one truck made 5 trips that took over an hour per trip—and we distributed clean, safe water and water purification tablets to 6,000 people. The families of St. Martin were overjoyed—the distribution was calm, orderly, and the whole team was uplifted to see so many smiles and to be able to actually help on a large scale.

Phil O'Kelly distributes water purification tablets.

Phil O’Kelly distributes water purification tablets at Place de la Paix camp. Photo: Ed Kenney, Concern Worldwide

No one is certain of the physical damage from today’s quake, but I do know it has damaged the spirits of the people here.

The tanks are being loaded again for another two distributions tomorrow. Also today, we gave more health centers critical medical supplies and our emergency experts completed assessments of most urgent needs and of the conditions in makeshift camps for thousand who have been left homeless and with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. IOM estimate there are now 500 of such camps in the city today.

Volunteer meeting.

Phil O’Kelly and Concern Haiti Program Coordinator Jean Frenel Tham convene a post-distribution meeting with volunteers to discuss how to improve distributions in the coming days. Photo: Ed Kenney, Concern Worldwide

The road is long but we are on it: Our second cargo shipment of relief supplies has arrived. We are all tired and shaken, but have never been more committed to working to help the people of Haiti—and we are preparing to scale up our operations in the coming days.