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Americas

'More people could die in the aftermath than in the quake itself’

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-01-18

Vincent Grammont lives in the Delmas neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. The former aid worker has lived in Haiti since 2005. He sent the following email to FRANCE 24 on Sunday, describing the harrowing situation Haitians are facing.

It has been a difficult night in Delmas; we can hear gunshots constantly. People have to choose between sleeping outside and braving the gunshots, or sleeping inside their devastated homes. People appear to be compromising and generally sleeping beneath their porches.

There is a very little petrol available, and I only have enough fuel for three days. We have been lucky that we were able to get petrol on the black market, but it was expensive.

I live with 15 people and the responsibility for getting fuel, water, maintaining security and finding food has been delegated to various different people. There is also someone responsible for the children, who are becoming increasingly restive; we think this is due to the stress levels among adults.

The way we are organised is a direct reflection of the way Haitian’s are operating. Once we have dealt with our own needs, only then can we start to think about other people, otherwise it’s impossible.
 
After the earthquake, I was naturally concerned about my friends and the people I knew in the neighbourhood. Several friends lost everything except their lives. I helped bring their families together and we have begun to look into how we can help the neighbourhood community in the district of Pétionville with my limited personal resources.
 
We have begun a quick evaluation and have tried to decide on priorities and to determine the number of dead, particularly in the four urban districts (shantytowns) with between 80,000 and 100,000 inhabitants. I drew on contacts at the United Nations and various aid agencies to try to get help for these areas.
 
State of shock

One of the major problems of this crisis is that the aid workers on the ground (the UN, NGOs and the Haitian authorities) are themselves beset with difficulties and are in a state of shock. As a result, nothing is running efficiently.

An emergency aid station has been set up in the Meyotte district, but it has barely enough supplies to function. It is handling up to 200 consultations every day at the moment. Two more aid stations will be set up at Bristout and Bobin in the next couple of days.

Eight years after leaving, a F24 journalist returns to Haiti
Around 50,000 people now have access to medical aid, thanks to the WHO and PROMESS, Haiti’s procurement agency for drugs and medical supplies, managed by the Pan American Health Organization. Consultations take place in extremely difficult conditions and are largely managed by local volunteers made up of doctors, nurses and students.

I have the feeling that the strategy of aid organisations will be to operate from the edge of residential districts rather than the centre despite the roads being clear. More people could die in the aftermath than in the quake itself.

In Bristout and Bobin, in the Pétionville district, everyone is living completely in the open. Every single space that appears is immediately taken over. These are people who have lost their homes or others (the great majority) whose homes are too unsafe for habitation. People are too afraid to even enter their homes, never mind sleep there.
 
‘At least it’s something’

Huge refugee camps have sprung up spontaneously, bit by bit, all over the place. However, there is an urgent need for plastic sheeting for shelters and tents.

I am really worried that if proper aid does not reach these people soon – particularly in terms of food and water – we could be in a situation where more people could die in the aftermath than in the quake itself.
 
We finally succeeded in having the UN distribute ration biscuits to 15,000 people in Bristout and Bobin. It’s not much, but at least it’s something.
 
I would like to finish by highlighting the support we have received from certain organisations. Digicel, the island’s biggest mobile phone operator, has given free phone credits to every single Haitian using their network. “Dlo Lokal” is distributing drinking water for free. Skype, the Internet telephone company, has given everyone in Haiti, including me, two US dollars in calling credit, which is equal to two hours of phone calls to the United States.

People should know that the help from these organisations is going a long way to help relieve suffering. It is also imperative that money transfer companies, such as Western Union and CAM, move so that money can get through to non-Haitians who are stranded in the country. 

 

Date created : 2010-01-18

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