Arriving in Haiti
Driving into and around Port-au Prince is a humbling experience. The Save the Children office, situated at the top of a hill named Pieton-Ville, survived relatively unscathed – not so many of the houses on the narrow roads leading up from the bottom of the hill did.
Two weeks after the earthquake, vehicles still have to swerve around the debris left by collapsed houses, fallen walls and crushed cars. Everywhere there are signs asking for help – mainly for food and water but also for medicines and every morning at first light hundreds of people gather at the gates looking for work.
Everywhere you look there are signs, not just of the physical damage caused by the quake, but also the emotional aftershocks that are affecting the entire population. Staff refuse to come indoors, fearful that the walls will collapse on them. At a memorial service for a colleague killed in the disaster, a translator cannot continue. Even in the commercial world, discussions with an international bank manager are put on hold as he is overcome by emotions when recollecting the moments after the disaster.
And yet, despite all this, conversation quickly turns to survival stories – everybody knows many who have died, but they also know of someone who has miraculously survived. And there is both a recognition and a determination that, for those who survived, life must go on.
I am out here to assist our livelihoods section with their cash programming initiatives. So far we have assessed how we are going to get cash grants to the most vulnerable people hit by the earthquake, start cash for work initiatives for the able bodied and provide funding for petty traders to enable the local economy to start to recover.
We are now in the final throes of contract negotiations with two of the country’s banks who are as equally determined to make the schemes work as we are – not an easy task as their complete infrastructure was destroyed in many of the areas in which Save the Children are present. This type of commitment is typical of the resilience seen on a daily basis – no one is quite sure how things are going to fully recover but they are determined that they will.