The painful reality of the tour
After the distribution site we toured Port au Prince and Petion-Ville. I can only tell you that I felt my expectation of what I would see was based on my experience in Haiti and a very informed understanding of what the infrastructure was pre earthquake and how desperate the situation was pre earthquake. I must tell you that I was shocked beyond words at the destruction and magnitude of the disaster. While I expected to see thousands of crumbled buildings and the devastation I had no idea it could be so bad.
As we drove block after block, we saw either all, or every couple of buildings imploded. It pained me to know that in most of them there could have been anywhere from 1 to 50 or 60 dead people still in the rubble never to be found, claimed or even buried. Besides the imploded buildings, fallen walls, cracked and broken structures, the entire infrastructure was also laying on the ground pushed to the side. Things like powerlines, phone lines and water lines. This was amplified by the sewerage and water running down the streets carrying the garbage and loose possessions.
Anywhere that there was a clear spot, tent cities had popped up. There were 100's of them made up of 10's of thousands of tents and home made shelters, randomly placed and very tightly packed together. Tents of all descriptions made up the camps. Many UN or international agency tents that were identifiable by the orderly fashion they were placed but it was clear they were soon crowded out by tents made from everything one could imagine around them. Some tents were framed from reused rebar from a crumbled buildings and wrapped in cardboard and remnants of clothes found after the earthquake. Others were framed from sticks and covered with pieces of material rescued from the streets after the earthquake. Interestingly enough on our tour we saw very few shelterboxes. I saw a couple of them on the side of a street where they acted as the safe home for a displaced family from a home that still stood but was cracked and the residence were afraid to move back into it. I guess the lack of sightings could be because of the lack of on the ground Rotary involvement, and maybe they were in locations unknown to the local Rotary clubs. To bad!!
As a quick perspective I was told the following. 15% of the country is now homeless, additionally 10% are displaced. I was also told that they have estimated that if they take 1000 loads of rubble per day from the streets, it will take a full 2 years to remove all the destruction. I saw it and believe it, but can not comprehend what that means to those trying to chart the way forward for this desperate country.
We passed by the water commission where they were training some staff on the needs for the latrines and the message they needed to share with the Tent City residents pertaining to drinking water, sanitation and latrine use. If you can imagine, the latrines should ideally be distributed to a ratio of 1 per 50 shelter residents. They are currently about 1 per 2000+. I will leave your imagination to figure out the rest. The water commission is responsible for the delivery of clean drinking water to the camps. It is also charged with the deliver and maintenance of the latrines for those camps. They are really, like everybody else in Haiti being pushed to the limit, but they are doing an amazing job. They have an additional 4000 latrines coming but need another 10,000. Something to think about.
The water commission is also distributing the Water Survival Boxes from Rotary in the UK. They are the most qualified and informed team in Haiti to deliver these and are doing so on behalf of our Haiti Rotary Team. They know where the camps are and what the needs are in each camp so we feel they are the best distribution system we can use.
Part Three tomorrow.