Ayiti. A thought and a retrospective.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the disastrous earthquake that countless people and hopes in Haiti, a country that has not had an easy stand even before it was struck by such unthinkable catastrophe. It has been almost five years too, that I have not been there myself, so I am not going to give an analysis on what is at stake there now (for that, check on real experts, like Haitian bloggers and journalists as well as the few good international analysts around, e.g. Jonathan Katz).
Instead, I want all those who accidentally stumble upon this blogpost to stand still for a quick thought, reminding what was one of the single largest instant moments of destruction in the world’s most recent history. This day, in 2010, in the late afternoon a seismic shock of over 7 Richter laid most of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince and many other villages and towns nearby in ashes. Far over 200,000 people, as per official statistics, lost their lives either simultaneously or during the following days and weeks, buried under the debris or outside the reach of emergency aid. The Haitian people did an unimaginable job in trying to rescue their fellows and so did numerous incoming helpers (most notably and quickly MSF and Cuban doctors, but also US troops, and others). But all of them remained severely limited by the unbearable logistic situation in the first days after the quake.
A lucky coincidence prevented me from being exposed to the most intensive shockwaves that destroyed so much. My trip from Hinche, a town about 100 kilometres north of the capital, to Port-au-Prince was cancelled that same morning and so I witnessed the earthquake in Hinche, where we all have been lucky to escape the most violent part of the disaster. I am still frightened thinking of that, remembering one colleague who died under one of the collapsing buildings of the office I was supposed to be.
After a detour via Dominican Republic, it took me a bit to reach Port-au-Prince for the first time after the quake later in January. Without being sensational at all, this continues to be a marking experience. Although I never actually worked in the capital those days (my assignment until March was then to rebuild a humanitarian coordination structure for the Hinche region together with numerous dedicated Haitian and international collaborators), I happened to do intermittent visits. These, as well as my own work that centred around organising food, shelter and care for the over 20,000 displaced Haitians who reached our area gave me an – at that time of my professional and private life – unprecedented glimpse of what reality can be like in the wake of such enormous destruction, whether through war or through natural disaster such as in the Haitian case.
I know that today, exactly five years later, Haitians still struggle with the corollaries of this terrific event, but I also did not lose hope that the fascinating people I had the chance to meet under unfortunate circumstances are slowly standing up from the ashes that covered their home, their families, and their hopes.
Ayiti cherie ap level, nou gen lespwa pou yon futur pi bon. Mwen songe’ou kounye a…