My sister Erva, a member of Rotary St. Thomas II, District 7020, sent me the following letter from Past District Governor Dick McCombe, an update as of January 31st. It sheds some light on what is happening in Haiti, and the difficulties Rotary is experiencing.
Sorry about the delayed update but we are working on a number of issues and none of them seem easy right now. As you know we are re-evaluating the situation with an emphasis on our Haitien Family of Rotary and where we need to go from here. We obviously have many of the supplies and assistance that was originally called for still coming in and are processing it through onto the ground daily. The status reports by region and for our Quake Zone clubs should be in by later tomorrow so a clearer update will be posted then. We have Dr. Greg Hoeksema, a fellow Rotarian from Cayman on the ground doing a medical evaluation of supplies and equipment. He is done in the Pignon area and is going to Cap Haitien tomorrow and onto Port de Paix Tuesday (Feb. 2nd) evening.
President Shaun Ingraham, and Tyson from the Eluthera Rotary Club are on the ground and on their way into Port au Prince tomorrow morning with the Director of Habitat for Humanity. He is going to be texting out information to us, so that should help with our insight. I just spoke to him and he will be providing me with his sense of the situation later on today.
The entire education system in the country has been shut down. Not one child anywhere going to school. There is slow movement now to begin to reopen Missionary and Private Schools although the Education Ministry has not officially permitted that yet and they have no clear strategy to do so. The transient population with children arriving in their respective new communities may well never get back to school unless we do something. I have a call out for BIG Tents, Circus or MASH type tents. There were in excess of 300 schools destroyed in the PaP area alone so this challenge is a big one. The children, orphaned or not, need a place to get together and play and socialize at the very least soon, so keep that in mind as you search for the tents.
Food and Shelter is still a core need. For food be sure its more in the way of beans, rice, protein supplements, baby formula etc. Tents, sleeping matts, blankets, clean clothing etc. We have our Florida Rotary Friends setting up 10 40ft containers throughout the State to collect food and shelter items. We are hoping to ship 8 containers from Nassau as well this week. We are still at the point where we can buy supplies in Haiti so money still works. Certainly for the long term and for the bigger longer term projects, money will be the most necessary.
Through the high tech capability of our District I was able to go live on REACH radio in the BVI's yesterday thanks to Don. Good job Don.
Transportation into and on the ground is a difficult and an ever-changing process. The last flight we sent in was met by a road block and an unruly crowd with sticks. The UN, police, and Dr. Guy put down the unrest but it is getting more complicated and difficult there as you can imagine. The people are getting more and more desperate as the population numbers in these rural communities increases and supplies dwindle. There are also Political factions now using the opportunity to try to build a constituency and some control by having the goods in their possession. More to come on this as I better understand it.
We had some issues with some of our supplies being taken yesterday by force by the French Army. It's a clear sign that the coordination of all the relief in Haiti is and will continue to be a BIG challenge as we go forward. On a good note, 40,000 lbs of supplies from the Sint Maarten / St. Marten area clubs got through to Rotary's storage in PaP after a very complex transportation route, so we can get it done.
We are setting up a more permanent and defined response committee for the ongoing relief. Our 1st meeting is 4:00PM tomorrow and I will share the structure of it with you after the meeting.
Have a good day