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Haiti: at the epicentre of the earthquake

As I continue my visit to Haiti, we go to Leogane, the epicentre of the earthquake.  Here, out of the cramped confines and horrible sanitation of Port-au-Prince, initial appearances suggest that life is returning to normal — market stalls are functioning and the motorcycle taxi stand is bustling.  And yet, when you turn a corner, you find more camps — people still living in row after row of tents a year after the earthquake.

Save the Children is actively working to help communities have the necessary services in place so that people will be able to leave the camps and get on with rebuilding their lives.

I visited a school that we had rebuilt on a new site on the outskirts of Leogane.  The old school building had collapsed during the earthquake — fortunately the children had already gone home for the day.  We’ve rebuilt the school on a new site using safer construction techniques that should allow it to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes.

It was the first day back to school after the Christmas holidays and the primary school children were hard at work with their lessons.  It was great to see the children in their brightly coloured uniforms playing and going to class with their friends.  It’s difficult to imagine the trauma that these children and their families experience from the death and destruction of the earthquake.  Being able to go back to school — even if it’s in basic conditions — can be an important part of the healing process.  It was easy to see how much a difference this can make.  But the children I saw are the lucky ones.  So many more children are not in school today — and too many weren’t in school before the earthquake.

We also visited a health clinic that Save the Children had set up in a community that had no access to health services.  This is an important part of the recovery — to make sure that people who are getting health services in camps also have health services when they leave the camps.  The clinic was a busy place. It was full of pregnant women receiving pre-natal care; infants and their mothers who were being vaccinated and checked for signs of malnutrition, and treated where there were problems.  There was also a doctor seeing patients for a wide range of ailments and a tent set up to provide oral rehydration when needed and to screen for cholera, as cholera is now finding its way to Leogane.

Save the Children has been working in Haiti for over 30 years.  It’s clear that the earthquake and the cholera epidemic have had a tremendous impact on the lives of children.  It’s also clear that the children of Haiti were suffering before the earthquake.  Right now it’s critical that everyone works together to help the Haitian people build a better future.  So much more needs to be done.  With the right support, I’m sure that Save the Children can continue to be part of the solution.

Find out more about our work in Haiti

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