The C2C assessment team arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday and we’ve spent the first full day in-country traveling to the towns of Petit Goave and Petit Guinee – 60 kilometers south-west of Port-au-Prince. International relief teams and NGOs are conducting major health and infrastructure interventions in this area, as it was closest to the epicenter of January’s earthquake.
The scene along the roadways is sobering. Collapsed buildings are intermittent: along a single stretch of road, every other building might have completely collapsed while others remain standing without even a crack in the façade – the result of inadequate building materials. Cement structures that may have appeared strong and well-maintained pancaked down into piles of rubble. The remaining rubble has been scavenged for steel scrap. Surprisingly, market life is vibrant; vendors are selling their wares, fruits and vegetables, and cooked food along the roadsides, oftentimes directly in front of collapsed buildings.
Tent cities have sprung up by the hundreds – mostly informal settlements, with tents provided by aid agencies and intermittent services. Two months after the earthquake, some tent cities with thousands of people are only now receiving sanitation facilities. Garbage collection is non-existent and clean, safe water is in short supply.
Juxtaposed with this ruin are the beautiful, expansive blooms of bougainvillea; colorfully painted “tap-taps”, or taxis, transporting people through gridlock traffic. It’s incredibly difficult to tell what aspects of the deprivation existed long before the earthquake, or what troubles were simply exacerbated. Hundreds of people are at work in streets, clearing rubble, helping to make the roadways passable. These people are benefiting from “cash for work” programs administered by USAID and UNDP. The demolition of structurally compromised buildings and the clearing of tons of rubble will be a years long endeavor for Haiti. In the meantime, most people whose homes withstood the quake still won’t risk going inside; they’re sleeping in makeshift tents on the sidewalks for fear of aftershocks.
In Petit Guinee, we visited an improvised health center converted out of a local, open-air bar literally steps from the ocean. For now, the facility is serving its function: medical personnel from the International Medical Corps (IMC) are providing primary health care, nutrition counseling, and psychosocial support. Women and children are lined up by the dozen, awaiting consultation in small “rooms” divided by hanging blankets. For now, IMC is providing critical health services, but with the hurricane and rainy season just weeks away, their placement on the coast will be untenable. They are looking to move the clinic inland and to increase their capacity to treat patients. Presently seeing approximately 100 people per day, the needs are exceeding the supply of services.
IMC’s services extend throughout Port-au-Prince and along the southern coast. We are eager to visit additional IMC sites later this week. Tomorrow, we will meet with field staff from Save the Children to learn more about their expansive operations.