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Haiti: a week after the earthquake

Categories: Caribbean, Haiti, Breaking News, Disaster, Humanitarian Response

Relief efforts are under way in southern Haiti, exactly a week after the country was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake [1]. As many desperate Haitians flee the capital, Port-au-Prince, for what they hope will be relative safety in other towns and rural areas, and as growing numbers of relief aid workers and foreign troops arrive, bloggers and Twitter users continue to report on local developments, make pleas for emergency assistance, and comment on the government and international response to the crisis.

A handful of frequent Twitter users have been invaluable sources of information over the past week. Musician and hotelier Richard Morse, tweeting as @RAMhaiti [2], had a great deal to say today about the pace and effectiveness of relief efforts:

Is the aid really going 2 get 2 the people?. We're looking 4 live bodies..”Did you bring food??” Can u blame someone who's hungry 4 looting? [3]

I don't get the feeling that there's a plan…I hope “THE PLANNING COMMITTEE” isn't the “same ol’ folks”..been there,done that. [4]

No sense of who is going 2 lead this next phase.There had better be some changes.Better figure out how 2 get food and water 2 ppl real qwik [5]

He warned:

A hungry man is an angry man. a hungry mob is an angry mob. [6]

One of my staff has been here since Tuesday working day and night..left 10 minutes ago..just came back.”the streets aren't good…thieves” [7]

But he still managed to crack a joke:

Even with all this earthquake trauma, I still get spam mail from Nigerian bankers. [8]

Journalist Carel Pedre (@carelpedre [9]) has been another frequent tweeter. On the morning of 19 January, he shared [10] the good news that a couple of supermarkets in Petionville had reopened for business, and struck a note of optimism:

I love haiti! I see hope and smile on so many faces today! [11]

Photographer Frederic Dupoux (@fredodupoux [12]), on the other hand, made an urgent call for help in the Fontamara area west of downtown Port-au-Prince:

In fontamara 27 there is no aid, no medical team no water in sight. [13] #haiti [14] #help [15] #SOS [16]

Just spoke to a 5 y-o girl a block fell on her head its an open wound and there's no help around. People around just gave her amoxiciline. [17]

Please send some help here. [18]

Religious charity workers have been among the most regular on-the-ground bloggers. From Port-au-Prince, Troy Livesay gave a status report [19] on the afternoon of 19 January on the ad hoc medical clinic his Heartline Ministries organisation has set up:

We've become a hospital, in that many patients cannot be treated and released. I may not have the accurate count, but I believe we're keeping 14 right now. We're rolling with it….

Via Twitter (@troylivesay), he passed on news from the town of Leogane, close to the earthquake's epicentre:

Eyewitness acct f/ Past. Henri-‘Compared to Leogane, Port au Prince is beautiful.’ It must be really,really bad there. [20]

In Jacmel, Gwen Mangine paid tribute [21] to her colleagues helping to organise the distribution of airlifted supplies from the town's small airstrip, but she also shared a story of unexpected selfishness [22] in the time of crisis:

We've been trying to locate oxygen for a team of doctors that came in. They need it before they can operate. We located a supplier in Jacmel…. He has oxygen. He had tanks. He wouldn't give us the tanks. He said unless we have empty tanks to exchange we cannot have oxygen. I told him that we need it for surgery. He told us than we better get some tanks. I said I would pay him whatever he wanted. Anything. Just ask and I will pay it. He refused. I told him that people were DYING because they need surgery and we cannot do the surgeries without the oxygen. He said he didn't care. I asked him again, “So you're telling me that you want me people to die rather than give us the tanks?” He said, “Yes.”

Meanwhile, in the rural village of Fond des Blancs, Canadian charity worker Ellen in Haiti was far removed from the zone of immediate crisis, but expressed [23] the shock and sorrow of many Haitians experiencing the ripple effects of the disaster:

…we are not seeing much of the physical suffering, but it is still difficult.  The stories are hard.  Everyone I know has lost close relatives. Fred, a university grad who had recently been at St. Boniface for a work experience, showed up yesterday.  He lost two brothers and everything he owns.  He had nowhere else to go….

As time goes by, the realization of how much things have changed is sinking in.  The whole world is different.  Any plans anyone had for the future here have changed.  People have hope, but they realize that even the smallest things may never happen or need to be put on hold indefinitely.

In Les Cayes, Pwoje Espwa posted photos of the traffic congestion [24] caused by people fleeing the capital:

People are arriving from PaP and many are trying to get out to the provinces where they have family…. Some gas and some medicine have come into town which has alleviated the crisis a bit. Much more is needed so we are hoping that what we read on the net about supplying the countryside will happen.

And the blog of the Konbit Pou Ayiti organisation gave reports from several areas of the country today. The civil society group KOFAVIV, the Commission of Women Victims for Victims, gave an account [25] of conditions in Chanmas, a Port-au-Prince neighbourhood:

…many women are sleeping in Chanmas in bad conditions, in the damp night air, where the sun beats on them, rain falls on them, damp air hits them, many of them lost a lot of their family, we can say, many of them already did not have anything to their name, now hunger almost kills them

Konbit Pou Ayiti also posted a report from a SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) staff member, who gave a glimpse [26] of the situation in the Champs de Mars, a city park where many homeless people have taken refuge:

…amongst the swarms of displaced people there was calm and solidarity. We wound our way through the camp asking for injured people who needed to get to the hospital. Despite everyone telling us that as soon as we did this we would be mobbed by people, I was amazed as we approached each tent people gently pointed us towards their neighbors, guiding us to those who were suffering the most. We picked up 5 badly injured people….

Back in Jacmel, students of the Ciné Institute have continued to post video from their town at the institute blog [27]. Today that included a report (by Lesly Decembre) from a makeshift refugee camp [28], and footage of the first aid vessels [29] arriving at Jacmel's harbour.