Haiti 2 Months On…

CAFOD’s Senior Emergency Response Officer, just back from Haiti says, “It will take years to recover.”

Two months have passed since the massive earthquake struck Haiti leaving over 230,000 people dead.  Over one million people need emergency shelter and care.  The Haitian people lost their homes, livelihoods and essential services such as hospitals and clinics. Many either lost family members or were separated from them in the panic.

There has been an outpouring of generosity from CAFOD supporters in Nottingham and across England and Wales in response to the appeal launched in February. So far an incredible £4.8 million has been raised. £195,178 has been raised in the Nottingham diocese alone. This money will be spent rebuilding the shattered lives of the Haitian people.

Jack Tunnecliff, Diocesan officer for Nottingham said: “The support from the Diocese, especially the outpouring from our parishes and schools is really amazing. People have been fundraising in so many creative and diverse ways – thank you for your donations, your prayers and your thoughts!”

CAFOD is working as part of Caritas International in Haiti, a group of Catholic aid agencies, distributing food, shelter materials and basic toiletries to families who have lost everything on January 12th.

CAFOD’s Senior Emergency Response Officer Robert Cruickshank has recently returned from the devastated country where he has been working for the last six weeks.

 Robert said: “When I first crossed from the Dominican Republic into Haiti on 22 January the devastation mounted gradually with each house I passed. Buildings tilted at surreal angles, bent corrugated plastic and familiar household items lay scattered in the streets. It was truly shocking.”

As the Emergency Response Officer for Asia and the Middle East at CAFOD, Robert knew what to expect. When the earthquake hit Pakistan in 2005 he saw the devastation first hand, bringing many years of emergency response experience but Haiti still proved to be overwhelming.

“There was a real sense of chaos in the air when I arrived. People made homeless were moving into the camps and the atmosphere was thick with tension. Some people didn’t know where family members were.

“People had to decide if their homes were safe to stay in, whether they could camp in the garden or abandon their house and move into one of the many camps that had appeared nearby.”

Robert explained, “At first I assessed the needs of the homeless and the enormity of what happened hit me. Many people were very traumatised, openly telling me they had lost loved ones.

“I visited a hospital where the patients were recovering in tented wards. There were only two functioning latrines but I was told not to dig more in case I disturbed the dead.”

However, within days of Robert being in Haiti, it was clear that aid was getting into the country. Robert said: “After a week we had made progress. Our partners and I had managed to get four water bladders into camps to contain 10,000 litres each. This was able to provide over 30,000 people with safe water. A modest success.”

“Despite reports of violence and looting in the media, our partners have experienced very little unrest while distributing vital supplies.

 “The US marines were there, unloading the trucks, but they didn’t have guns,” said Robert. “The relief and joy when people got their food was evident. There was laughter, and sometimes even shouts of happiness.

 “The food distributions were so well organised. People were given tickets in advance and waited patiently in line until they were told by our volunteers to go and pick up their food.”

Women waiting in a food queue

It is not simply a case of Haitians standing back and being helped however. They are determined to be a part of the rebuilding and with this they feel they are doing something that gives them dignity.

A man we met named Faubert lost his house in the earthquake. He lives on a piece of land at the back of a factory made available for the homeless. A landfill sight bound by a sewer. There is nowhere else to go.

Robert said: “Faubert arrived one day at the CAFOD base in Delmas, a district of the capital that was badly hit by the earthquake and offered his help as a volunteer. We went to the camp where he lives and just began digging.”

A draughtsman by trade, Faubert had more to offer than his hard labour. Robert said, “We talked about how to build the latrines and the next day he showed me a full set of technical drawings, sketched by torch light in his makeshift shelter.

“By the time I left, the land Faubert lives on looked like a real camp. We had managed to set-up a regular water supply and built 5 latrines and the work of course will continue. The rebuilding of Haiti will take many years.”

It will take a long time to help people get their lives back in Haiti. But thanks to the money raised by CAFOD supporters, a difference has been made already. More than 200,000 people like Faubert, have received food to their camp since the earthquake struck. 

Tents and materials for shelters have been given to thousands of people so families have a more secure place to live. We are also installing water pumps to ensure that people like Faubert can access clean water and latrines are being built to improve sanitation.

Haiti is a place in need but people are living and working together as best they can.  CAFOD will stand alongside the people of Haiti for years to come, helping them to build a better life after this terrible earthquake.

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