Haiti: The Streets Are the Bedrooms and Kitchens

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Here are some stories from our partners about how relief efforts are unfolding. In many areas quake survivors are at risk and still abandoned.

Joe Duplan, from our partner American Jewish World Service, reported shortly after the earthquake:

      “Between 30 and 45 percent of the homes in Jacmel, a city that is 160 kilometers southeast of Port-au-Prince where KONPAY is headquartered, have been completely destroyed… ‘We have also not received relief supplies. Roads are destroyed and seaports and airports are not being used even though the Haitian government is willing and ready with open arms to receive aid.’

      “Due to road blocks and other obstacles that severely restrict aid deliveries, Duplan explained that hard cash is most needed to locally obtain food, medical supplies and other immediate essentials. The cost of whatever food available has sky-rocketed in just a few days.

      “‘People need to understand that the streets of Jacmel are now the living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens for the local population. People are actually living in the streets. The streets are destroyed and full of wreckage, preventing aid from getting to us,’ said Duplan.” 

Church World Service noted that some citizens of Jacmel have resorted to taking refuge in Jacmel’s Wesleyan (Methodist) Church instead of moving to displacement camps. However, many wonder how long it will take for the damages of this disaster to be remedied.

      “‘How long will it be? I don’t know,’ community leader Francilaire Jeudi said. ‘Nobody knows.’

      “Nobody knows—it’s a refrain heard often as Haitians mark the first month since the devastating earthquake in an altered and unwelcome world. As they traverse the unknown, not even the immediate future—a day, a week—can be planned.”

According to Oxfam America, although there has been more progress with aid distribution in the capital than other cities, it cannot come fast enough given the need.

      “When the rain comes—and it will; the rainy season begins in April or May, with occasional downpours starting now—everyone who doesn’t at least have a tarp over their heads will get drenched. Already people are complaining about the cold at night. Add rain to the mix and you’ve got unabated misery.

      “So far, good shelter is in short supply. Oxfam has distributed some plastic tarps and more are on the way. We’re negotiating with an orphanage in Port-au-Prince that has the space to allow us to cut large pieces of plastic down to a household size. People can use the tarps in a variety of ways to meet their individual requirements—and our goal is to get those tarps into the hands of people before the wet season arrives. But still, the need here is enormous.”

A return to normalcy is still way out of reach for the majority of Haitian citizens. Oxfam America tells the story of 12 year-old Sebastian Stermine, one of the thousands of Haitians whose lives have changed dramatically since the earthquake:

      “With their house in ruins, [his] family wandered until they came to Delmas 62 and found a crowd gathering in the yard of a private compound whose walls had collapsed. They spent the night there—and have been there ever since, along with hundreds of other people.

      “Sebastian says he thinks about the earthquake a lot, and it fills him with fear… Sleep, with the forgetfulness it brings, doesn’t come easily… His family spends the night on the ground without mattresses. His thoughts churn as he lies there, he says. The nights are cold. And with just one meal a day, he’s hungry.

      “Food, water, and a tent: That’s what Sebastian says would make life more tolerable for his family right now—essentials that reveal just how far away normal is for so many people in Port-au-Prince.”