Haiti’s slow recovery

Then and now

by LKO,  2015/01/12

On January 12th, 2010 the earth shook on Haiti, as it had never done before in America’s history. With a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale, the earthquake has caused 300,000 deaths, nearly the same number of injured and more than two million homeless people. The lack of infrastructure in combination with poor supply planning has plunged the small developing country into chaos and required comprehensive help from outside.

As usually, humedica has reacted quickly and already a few hours after the catastrophe a medical field unit was sent to the capital city Port-au-Prince, not far away from the epicenter.

About 100 field team members have treated injured persons, cared for broken bones and amputated limbs during the weeks and months after the quake.

When the humanitarian situation just seemed to ease, the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in October 2010 caused another surge of deaths. humedica reacted immediately with the commitment of well-equipped first responders.

Today, five years after the year of catastrophes, life has become better for the crisis-worn Haitians, it hasn’t become easy, however. The progress in reconstruction dramatically contrasts the widely spread infection diseases like cholera or swine fever. Slow economic growth faces poverty all around.

After comprehensive aid by medical support, family sponsorships and distribution of aid supplies, humedica continues its commitment on Haiti with different reconstruction projects. Carmen Wolf, who visited the country a few weeks ago, tells us about the current situation of the country itself, of its inhabitants and of the humedica projects:

A personal insight: “The life conditions are still difficult”

“When I arrive at the airport in Port-au-Prince, I am surprised: It is in an impeccable, modern state, everything is clean, neat and well-organized. At the outside of the new building that is different. Many of the streets in the Haitian capital are not made of tarmac.

The countless side streets full of rubbish are nothing else but gravel roads with big potholes, which are very difficult to use by the cars and their careful drivers. It is not astonishing that there are mostly SUVs on the streets. Even the colorful Tap-Taps, the public small buses, are all converted pick-ups.

During my way through the metropolis I only see one traffic light, which always shows the red light because of the turbulent circumstances, and thus a policeman has to regulate the traffic. No-one is using the seat-belts, no moped rider is wearing a helmet and the motorbike-taxis are mostly helplessly overloaded with up to seven passengers.

Amongst the chaotic traffic now and again I can see street vendors with heaps of avocados, mangos and pastries, as well as children in neat and clean school uniforms. In fact, all people seem to be well-dressed.

Later, our project partner Annelise Gutmann would explain me that Haitians only leave their house neatly dressed. That’s why it may happen that family members share a piece of clothing and that during a weekend you may see a shirt worn by three different persons. She adds a personal anecdote to this explanation: One Sunday, their church choir didn’t appear for the mass, as the choir leader couldn’t leave his house because his good pair of shoes was needed by its actual owner.

Today, there are no longer towns of tents or ruins, which had shaped the appearance of the city for a long time after the earthquake. However, people who know the city tell me that the renovations of many houses have still not been finished, despite international promises, and that life is still difficult.

During a visit to the prosthesis and orthosis clinic funded by humedica there is no more sign of the initial rush of patients. The procedure is calm and, thanks to the orthopedic technician Nyavo, professionally organized. At the moment, he cares for eleven patients, who need a prosthesis or orthosis.

On the construction site of a new school, which humedica contributes to financially thanks to BILD hilft e.V. – „Ein Herz für Kinder“, it is a similar picture. The disabled boys and girls all come from the annexed orphanage and children’s home, on which there is incredible peace and a warm atmosphere.

The children’s happiness is contagious. All of them can hardly await the day when they will go to the new school and with that to avoid the daily long bus ride.

Three hours south-west of Port-au-Prince I visit the village Meyer. After the earthquake, humedica renovated the old school building. Today, it accommodates the library, a hospital ward and office rooms of our project partner Annelise Gutmann. There is no electricity and repairing and renovations are needed on all ends of this community situated amidst green and lush woods. humedica makes this possible with a financial support.

However, the biggest active humedica project on Haiti is situated in the small village Tapio, north of the capital, where thanks to the donations of the company Roma KG two orphanages could be rebuilt. 37 boys and girls are being currently cared for by Bishop Père Bienaimé and his staff members. Thus, they get the possibility of growing up in a safe and caring environment.

Back in Port-au-Prince I recognize: Even if much has been done since the earthquake, the country and its inhabitants are still affected by great poverty and poor supply. Hence, slowly, step by step, new perspectives are developing on Haiti and life after the catastrophe begins.”

In order to counteract long-term dependences and to enable the people for a future in independence and on their own initiative, humedica is successively handing over the responsibility of the projects to local forces. This way, the inhabitants of the island state get the chance to take their lives into their own hands and to shape their future on their own authority.

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