Wednesday, February 3, 2010
An email from a fellow Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti
Hello tout moun (everyone),
It has been an interesting experience sitting here in Port-Au-Prince being part of a coalition of 25 non-profit organizations coming together to coordinate the dispensation of food, water, and medical supplies. It hasn't been easy because of the extreme difficulty of passing through the myriad loops that the large NGO's require before anything will be given out. There is a 100 question form that they are passing out to communities to fill out bring back in order to receive aid. This alone can take them a week or so. The questions they ask are very difficult to answer and explaining location in Port-Au-Prince, is nearly impossible. Often Haitians use directions like, next to the large tree around the corner from so and so market. The UN wants GPS coordinates because many streets are not marked here and navigating the city has proven to be difficult.
After the one riot that took place in the worst part of the city, they are only sending out non-food items at first to see if the communities can function without a disaster taking place. I understand their concern for safety, but it seems to be quite a long process to go through before any nutritional needs are met. It has been nearly three weeks now and communities all over the place are living on minimal amounts of food if any. The Haitian government has been completely bypassed in all of this. The president has thrown his hands up in the air because he is not being included or informed about anything that is happening involving this process of bringing aid relief to the people.
Boats full of goods are being redirected to pass through the Dominican Republic (DR) which is a very lengthy process as well. We actually have a boat waiting in the DR which hasn't received any clearance by the port of Jacmel to debark.
When did it occur that our society got so disorganized? Where paperwork and numbers are given priority over bringing actual aid to the people. Smaller organizations have given up all over the place trying to deal with the larger NGO's and the UN because there still has been any sign of the goods being distributed. They have warehouses full of boxes and can't organize their dispensation to the country. The small organizations have given up and are buying local food to distribute and/or taking trips to the DR and driving truck loads of good back to the communities they are working in.
I understand that indeed this is quite a difficult project, but how could it be so disorganized? I hope that there will be a reflective inquiry into what made this all such a mess, so in the future aid relief will arrive and actually be given out to the people in timely manner and avoid the watching the population diminish everyday while groups run around like a chicken with its head cut off staring at piles of papers and computer screens, forgetting that behind the numbers are real people in dire need.
This has been a huge disaster, not only with the earthquake, but with the response. I only can hope that we get it together before more and more Haitians perish because the loads of aid aren't quite ready because they haven't been given the go by those in charge. If this doesn't reflect the depth of our Orwellian times, and not wake us up from this great mess we have gotten ourselves into, I am not sure what will.
The Haitian people are unfortunately used to living with very limited resources including food and water and have a high tolerance for suffering. If this was to happen in the US there would have been no tolerance for such suffering. With great hope and determination we will overcome this all and Haiti will revive itself.
at 11:29 AM