Intermediate summary

This report has been written at 10pm, January 17th 2010.
We are now getting ready to leave. There will not be an evacuation as there is noboby available to evacuate us. I would rather call it an “evocation” as the German embassy and the German Development Service as the institution we are currently working for are calling us to leave the country. First they asked us to leave on Monday morning but considering the current events in Hinche we want to stay for some 24 hours longer and they accepted after receiving our briefing.
Tomorrow the whole day will serve us to push relief action in Hinche. As I said earlier we are awaiting a truck providing medical care and – if they manage – two German doctors from Dominican Republic who had offered their services. I really hope this operation is going to take place since I saw difficult scenes in the local hospital and I was just listening to another call for help issued by the directing physician on one of the regional radio stations. The second task is the reunion of all local and regional actors who are available. This includes the mayor, this regions deputee, some responsible staff from MINUSTAH, other civil servants (like FAES, our collaborator) and representatives from the civil society and all major international organizations here (like us from DED, Caritas, World Vision and others). It was quite difficult to get this meeting arranged and I have to admit that I was disappointed at some time. Until this morning nobody from the Haitian side was really thinking of establishing a coordination and provision of necessary goods for the days and weeks to come. Perhaps this was due to the medial focus on Port-au-Prince or a general scarcity of information as well, but I think this is also a responsibility, especially of the elected representatives of the Haitian people. After today’s meeting in the townhall we saw buses arriving from the capital. Wounded people asking for food and money were coming out to look for shelter and care. Hopefully local authorities recognised at this occasion that the refugee influx is just about to commence and the situation will worsen during the days to come (I am aware of the fact of repeating myself, but this is an issue one has to put emphasis on).
Concerning the developments in Hinche there is not much to say. Fuel and gasoline are still not available with the exception of a small and extremely expensive black market. The food market on Saturday was rather a shadow of what it was like some days before. Even communication remains depending on luck. Internet is only available by satellite and depends on fuel reserves and mobile phones are useless in one of ten cases due to network weaknesses. We estimate that the latter one will improve whereas all other domains may face even heavier supply problems. Another good I would like to mention is that of human security. The fact that we have been asked by our Dominican partner Fundasep if a medical convoi can take the risk of entering Haiti at the frontier of Belladere/Elias Pina and pass by Mirebalais to come to Hinche is significant in this regard. Also regarding our personal security we start getting a bit nervous because incidents of small scale looting have already occurred around Hinche. The deployment of the 10000 people US force is another factor that could endanger people in the provinces because we have been told that all the deliquent guys trolling around there and doing whatever (shootings with the police, looting and pillages) might be scared and flee to pursue their activities elsewhere. Combined with the loads of ‘ordinary people’ this will from a highly explosive mixture approaching the smaller towns outside the metroploitan area. I did not hear of any strategic plan to avoid that risk, neither did I get the informations of an existing coordination of international activities outside the capital. If at least some involved people read this blog I think it is already worth writing so much.
Here I come to another point. What are we really doing here? I came to Haiti for an internship with the German Development Service (DED) in cooperation with the parastatal agency FAES (fonds d’assistance economique et sociale. After my first working week which I devoted basically to get in touch with all the people and get involved in the projects they have, this terrible earthquake occurred. From one day to another my objectives were just eradicated, all colleagues logically went to Port-au-Prince to look for their families (and lots of them have not come back up to this day…). I was paralyzed like the other people from DED working here. In the meantime we got the information that also our organization was affected and one colleague died. One day long we did not really understand what happened and had no real orientation. We went from one small bar to another had beers and talked about what to do. Bit by bit and thanks to internet access and radio we began to realize the facts and kind of reorganized ourselves. Like the others I had not experienced such a tragedy before and even the fact that I worked in some other problematic environment like the Democratic Republic of Congo could not actually help in finding a masterplan. Now things are more concrete again. We gave a crucial help to the beginning local/regional coordination efforts and are hoping that our networking efforts will result in help for the hospital. But still I do not have the impression that I am doing everything I can to help Haitian people. Some days ago I called that a status of luxury prisoners and rethinking it I actually feel this way. I am scared of staying here and thus I will certainly leave Haiti with the others. But I am scared as well, of arriving in Santo Domingo and realizing that I have done so few. It is like a little nightmare of a little guy in a huge nightmare for millions of other people. I do not want to put my person and the circumstances I am facing in a distinct spotlight and I do not either want to derive attention from those who really need it. It is just a try to give an impression how people may feel experiencing such events. A lot of times I thought about going to Port-au-Prince. Given the fact that people there still not cope with the challenges risen in the aftermath of the catastrophy one can assume that any person having some communication or organization abilities may be useful. In the end I took the decision not to do it. According to all the first-hand and media sources I had, danger for a white guy travelling alone is too high. Hopefully there might be a chance to compensate for that, be it in a remote way from Santo Domingo or in a couple of weeks when the situation might have gotten stable.
One month of national reminding has been decreeted and radio stations all broadcast special news mixed with appropriated music. Listening to a sad Creole rap song in the radio I would like to conclude with some bullet points…
– between 50000 and 200000 people probably have died
– around 3 million people are affected by the earthquake
– around 350000 people lost their homes
– the government lost a lot of officials and almost its whole infrastructure
– the UN mission probably lost 400 people including their whole senior staff
– neither police nor other public institutions can fulfil their tasks
– Port-au-Prince, Petionville, Carrefour, Leogane, Jacmel, Petite Goave and a bunch of smaller villages are destroyed
– all kinds of diseases may rise due to countless corpses on the streets
– communication has been down for several days and still does not work properly
– cood, water, electricity, fuel and gasoline supply is not secured all over the country
Concerning the time Haiti will need to recover from this event I rather do not want to give a forecast…

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