Haiti: Beyond the Capital

Much of the coverage of the destruction in the earthquake‘s aftermath has been focused in and around Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince. But many other areas close to the ‘quake's epicentre have also been affected, as bloggers are quick to point out…

Jacmel, located about twenty-five miles south of Port-au-Prince, is “stranded and increasingly desperate”, according to Repeating Islands’ republication of an excerpt from “the award-winning team of reporters from the Miami Herald:

Residents of Jacmel, a quaint, historic Caribbean port city that suffered widespread damage and has been cut off from Port-au-Prince to the north, complain they have been forgotten. Four days after the quake struck Jacmel with equal force, they say they are still awaiting food, water, medical supplies and relief workers.

Despite the blog's discontent “about the nature of the coverage of the earthquake in Haiti on American television and other media”, in another post it follows the Herald team as it reports on another area that is receiving little media attention, Carrefour:

This town, which on Tuesday was the epicenter of the earthquake, is living in the epicenter of oblivion.

Pwoje Espwa – Hope in Haiti, meanwhile, reports on the relief efforts taking place in Les Cayes:

In contrast to the situation in PAP, the UN is guiding the relief efforts in les Cayes, and will be coordinating and providing a platform for the efforts of all the NGOs working in the area. There is no fuel left for purchase in Cayes and the UN has very little left. The UN folks are not sure when food and fuel will be delivered. All of us are nervous about this. There was a commercial flight on Tortugair this afternoon from Cap Haitian to Cayes, and they delivered a group of 8 orthopedic surgeons to work at the hospital.

As the people arrive here from the destroyed capitol we will assist them in any way we can. Some need money to go on to family on the coast or inland; some require medical attention; all are hungry and thirsty; almost all need clothing and shoes along with personal hygiene items. A simple thing like letting this young woman use my cell phone to call her mother and tell her she was all right and in Cayes was momentous for her and her mother.

Konbit Pou Ayiti says that “Haiti KONPAY has been playing a critical role coordinating a rapid response to the crisis in both Jacmel and Port-au-Prince…pursuing two major strategies”:

1. Delivering immediate support to people on the ground in Jacmel and Port-au-Prince by coordinating the transport of supplies and volunteers. Carefully design volunteer interventions to avoid exacerbating the developing food and water shortages.

2. Encouraging the evacuation of Port-au-Prince and establishing the resources necessary to assist victims when they arrive in the countryside by assessing existing resources in outlying areas and sending teams and equipment to clinics.

The post goes on to quote a report “from Amber Munger on the ground in Port-au-Prince”:

These are some details of the damage in Jacmel, which is a city of 34,000:

· 1,785 homes completely destroyed

· 4410 homes partially destroyed

· 87 commercial businesses destroyed

· 54 schools destroyed

· 24 hotels destroyed

· 26 churches destroyed

· 5730 families displaced

· Death count approaching 3,000, nearly 10% of the population
(Reported by Gwenn Mangine, www.mangine.org)

Mangine also posts images from the (severely damaged) general hospital, with a further update on Sunday 16:

…we noticed that the main pharmacy in town was open. And so we went in and bought them out of everything they had from the list— alcohol, hand sanitizer, peroxide, wound care items, meds… (another truckload.)

Yesterday we were expecting a big shipment of supplies, but we got one box. Still– we rushed over to the hospital with it. Mostly antibiotics and trauma care supplies– both were desperately needed. The doctors were thrilled.

Pye's in Haiti discusses the “crazy busy” situation at the local airstrip:

We had a plane full of supplies ready to come, however the San Juan airport would not let the plane leave with the medical supplies…. We are hoping that flights start today of supplies and medicine.

And Darren Tyler of Conduit Mission, who has been trying to send emergency supplies to Jacmel by boat, shares an update from a member of his organisation on the ground:

The port can be used, cruise ships can come in there. We need help bad here is the city. What kind of supplies are on the boat? How fast can they get here? We are starting to feel people get frustrated and scared….

Updates are being posted regularly on Twitter. @melindayiti noted (15 January) that “Jacmel is a mess – we have planes and boats but US coordinators won't give us clearance to get in!” And a few hours later added: “2 boats on the way, still no clearance to land plane w/critical medical teams”. Meanwhile, @RescueJacmel, a new Twitter account, is attempting to ensure that international rescue efforts do not overlook the small city.

Video bloggers are also chronicling their experiences, with clips from Les Cayes and Jacmel getting lots of attention on YouTube and other video sharing websites. The Cine Institute in Jacmel also posted eyewitness accounts of the earthquake.

Lougou Corner is one of the blogs eager to supply information from their community:

# We last communicated with Ginette last Thursday evening and she said that an exodus of people left Port-au-Prince already and came back to the provinces and rural areas.
# We communicated via email with some ministries in Cayes and they reported that hospitals in Cayes are flooded with patients returning from Port and other areas affected in the provinces.

We have seen firsthand in Lougou how an entire community has changed when residents have a say on the issues that affect their own lives. They have the best knowledge on what can and should be done to meet their pressing needs and bring lasting change in their community.

And finally, from a U.S.-based Caribbean diaspora blogger, comes a stirring account of her friend's quest to find his mother, most likely in a neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince:

‘As we came up on the block, I first walked right by the house because a good portion of it was totally demolished. The fitness center across the street was also completely demolished with a really strong smell coming from in between the bricks. When I asked people if they knew my mom, they shook their heads until I mentioned her by her nickname, Tita. And they were like, “Oh, yeah,” with joy in their eyes. “She's right there in the house next door.”

‘I opened the door. Her back was to me. I tapped her on the shoulder. The surprise, the tears, the hug so hard to explain. It was an unbelievable moment. She squeezed me so hard, crazy with joy. She paraded me down the street. “Meet my fourth son. He came for me,” she said. “He came for me.”‘

We can only hope for similar stories coming out of other affected areas. For more on the earthquake in Haiti, visit our Special Coverage page.

Nicholas Laughlin contributed to this post.

The thumbnail image used in this post, Delmas 33, is by AIDG, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit AIDG's flickr photostream.


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