Slow progress and new challenges
For the last ten days things in Hinche have not so much changed. Some time I had the impression that communication and coordination would improve after we had invested so much energy in exactly that domain. But this was maybe a superficial assessment and it did not really last.
Even worse, we have some serious doubts that even the local comittee we created shortly after January, 12th, has some members we cannot really rely on. But that is merely speculation and I do not want to point too much on this.
There are other, less covert issues that went wrong in all thes aid actions driven in our region. Just as a reminder, we have some over 20000 IDPs in our town, Hinche, and some 100000 in the province around. These are more or less the official numbers released by UN-OCHA, Reliefweb and other trustworthy sources, but they were from February, 15th. Now new statistics have proven, the total IDP number in Haiti has risen from 511000 to 600000 (if I am not wrong, 22nd of February…) – you may imagine that some of those 89000 have reached our region, as it has been the second-most affected province in terms of population increase after the earthquake. Further there have been some major seismical replicas on the last two days (two of them reached a 4.7 on the Richter scale) certainly causing even more people to leave Port-au-Prince in this moment. As far as I know the social and psychologocal situation there is getting worse every day. We observe similar development right here but I assume in the capital this issue is again a more vital one.
So, what implications may that have on our work? Actually we are already facing a lot of technico-physical constraints in daily affairs. Not that I need some compassion or similar, but I would like to state the point that with current cuts and extremely slow internet connections, constraints in materials and transportation and a communication environment which is quite feable you cannot deliver 100% planned, structured and executed efforts. This hampers both the committee’s (which we are assisting) and our own work.
The additional challenges are for example in a situation in which we just try to organize and establish a secure, fair and feasible distribution scheme – altogether with World Vision, the town hall of Hinche, some US Army guys and the UN Mission (MINUSTAH) – we face a further influx of IDPs in our zone. Of course, this could have been foreseen, and we even did so, but nevertheless the organizational problems and needs resulting therefrom are unchanged. They have to be tackled in a certain way that the highest possible number of those people can be served and fed. Right now we have not found an answer to this twofold issue which is in the frame of our abilities.
Yet without taking into account these new challenges we are struggling to get our food distributions done without greater problems. It starts and ends with the security issue. That one emerged to be the crucial one determining all other parameters. The standard operating procedure is as follows: A local authority (i.e. the mayor and the local comittee) call for the Haitian police to provide security. Reasons of sovereignty which are basically right provide them from giving a direct call to MINUSTAH or UN Police. If the Haitian police (PNH) does not feel capable to cope with the circumstances they are the ones that can inform a UN body in order to get support. So far the theory…
In practice we faced several times the situation that either PNH did not come at all (and thus MINUSTAH neither) i.e. due to fuel scarcity (!) or they came with just 2 guys to control a mass of maybe 500-800 people. It occurred that we went with our cars to fetch them at the stations – not because we thought we needed them – just to have the chance that UN forces will join the distribution as well (you remember the SOPs…).
So at the end of the day (sometimes it was literally that – making the distribution situation not easier) we generally had the two or three PNH guys and some 10 MINUSTAH troops. The latter actually did a great job (Just to counter some critiques rising frequently about UN missions and the fact that I joined such critiques at several occasions, so I take the opportunity to say the opposite in this case as I had the chance to observe it quite well. Same applies to the American soldiers at other occasions) while the national policemen sometimes – I quote – “did not want to wet their uniforms”. This was during a distribution accompanied by a heavy tropical rainfall. The distribution had only started when MINUSTAH showed up and began to organize the queuing of the IDPs. This point I demanded PNH to assist the blue helmets, but they preferred to stay under a “safe” tree. This just as a notion describing the mental situation of this country and its official bodies. A really sad example…
So I went to help the UN soldiers. Not that I could do a lot, but at least identifying pregnant women, old people and small children who were at risk to be hurt within the nervous crowd of people.
There are a few more issues fitting in this category I chose to call slow progress and new challenges but due to time and other obligations I prefer to stop at this point.