Preparing the return to Haiti
Yesterday evening we received the confirmation concerning our return to Haiti. It will take place tomorrow, but details have to be clarified again until our action in the next days can be defined.
We find ourselves in a situation where it is tremendously difficult to foresee more than the next step to take. Our information scope on Port-au-Prince and several other areas of the country is quite limited and thus we barely know anything about food, water, transport and medical issues.
At least we have been told to come back with some provision of the most important goods.
In my case it is not yet sure, whether I am supposed to go immediately to Port-au-Prince with some colleagues there or the first journey shall lead me back to Hinche. The striking issue here is that we cannot really analyze the needs at any place in remote way. Probably I could dedicate myself better to some action in the capital. Thus I might go there tomorrow or if not maybe in a couple of days. It is kind of difficult not to know how the next days might be and nevertheless stay ready for any relevant activity and operation area but still there is hope for me to engage myself for some good and important work.
That is what we all tried the last days as well though it has not been actually simple. There was an attempt to carry out some research and collect a broad range of information with the support of my colleagues, but I had to admit that even such a compilation could not give us a general impression since we left Haiti around the 20th of January and from then we had all been very dependent on our personal contacts (and the ability to reach them by mail or phone in Haiti) and the few sources of reliable information (like http://www.reliefweb.int or other…). This did not simplify our task. At least we could push the actions from GTZ helping them to prepare food aid and we hab a tight collaboration with Arche NoVa that provided water treatment plant for the areas of Port-au-Prince and Leogane (one of the most affected cities – over 90% destruction).
So for example I went to buy a car for them. We strolled around in the suburbs of Santo Domingo, a very interesting area consisting of car and car-related small businesses as well as some grocery stores selling the beer for all the guys around there.
After a long search and a lot of negotiations, discussions, test drives and even a small crash (another car catched us brusquely in the back) we finally found a Mitsubishi pick-up that fitted more or less in the expectations and he budgetary limits. We went up to the bureau of the retailer and I rather had the impression to be an a building altogether with a bunch of bizarre people to discuss about a major cocaine deal. Drak rooms, latino men sitting in the edges with their sunglasses, the reailer himself who was military officer, car retailerand lawyer at the same time and some good looking Dominican (or Haitian!?) girls that weared few clothes. Once in a while other guys stepped in either to deliver or to get money, of course several currencies were dealt with…
Nevermind we struck the deal and the water NGO had its car (although, a good one, able to cope with the often non-existing streetsin Haiti) to operate more easily on the other side of the frontier. And, if we would have tried to buy such a vehicle in Haiti, the price would have been multiplied by the factor of 2 or 3. As much to say concerning the emergence of a new quality of aid bussiness there. As soon as we are back there I will try to concentrateon this issue because I consider it as crucial when it comes to the effectiveness and the mechanisms of relief action. For those who regularly read my blog you may remember the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo where serious efforts are meddling with the same phenomenon. Albeit it is a sad one, it is in fact a reality the international community as well as the regional epicentres of action must not ignore.
Now, coming back to concrete issues, as I mentioned earlier the next days will be hard to plan on the theoretic base we have from Santo Domingo. My objective is to keep this site updated especially if I really shall go to the capital and aside from the daily work a principal concern is to contribute to the endangered minority genre of reliable on-the-ground report in order to provide a picture that is different from mass media panic, blood and sensation reports. Hope it will work…