A sincere thank you from Haiti
It was difficult to know exactly what to expect as I arrived in Haiti one year after the terrible earthquake. There had been so many reports – some of them contradictory – and I looked forward to seeing things for myself. Stepping off the aircraft and into the warm morning air of the capital city, Port-au-Prince, what struck me first was the vibrancy – the music, smells and general hum of Haitian urban life.
After a short drive, what becomes more apparent are the mountains of earthquake rubble piled either side of the road; houses still in ruin; the badly potholed streets (which pre-dates the earthquake, I’m sure) and then, eventually, the tent camps where people made homeless by the earthquake now live.
I visited one tent camp called Delmas 56, which 6,000 people have called home since the earthquake. The sad truth is that here in Delmas 56 many people have lost their homes and livelihoods to the earthquake and, in many cases, loved ones too. Indeed across earthquake-affected Haiti up to one million people cook, clean, sleep and eke out a living in camps like this one.
As I walked along the camp’s narrow dirt corridors that weave a path through the tents and the a few small huts made of wood and plastic, I caught a glimpse of a barber’s shop, a hair salon and a small shop selling basic goods. Life goes on and people here are resilient– they are active and taking action to improve their own lives.
Despite the hardship, people find a way to live with dignity. And that’s important since living cheek-by-jowl in camps like these can easily rob a person of their self worth.
In Delmas 56 and other camps like it, Save the Children has built showers and toilets to help the people here maintain a basic level of hygiene. We promote and support safe hand washing practices in order to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases like cholera, which has so far claimed the lives of over 3,600 people in Haiti.
To tackle the outbreak Save the Children has established a cholera treatment unit in Delmas 56. It was great to see Save the Children doctors and nurses working around the clock shifts to provide life-saving support to people stricken by cholera.
I was moved most though by the dignity of the patients themselves. I wondered what it must have been like for them to see an international delegation passing through asking questions of the staff and, where possible, the patients. I noticed one patient, a young man, moved a plastic bucket to one side so that our party could move with ease through the treatment area. Another woman coughed, quietly, into her bed sheets as we passed by. I wondered how I would react if I was sick in hospital and people came walking by asking questions?
That said it was important to see the hard work we are doing to save lives from cholera. Not one single life could we have saved however without the support of our donors and supporters. So, to everyone who has supported our work in Haiti I say a very sincere thank you.