Haiti earthquake relief: Tough situation in PAP

Angela Kirwin

Image of a bunch of debris as a result of a terrible earthquake on the 12th of January. KIRF’s three volunteers, Mark, CJ and Patrick, will be distributing food supplies they purchased yesterday in the DR, today in Port-au-Prince (PAP). They spent all last night in the city at one of Patrick’s Haitian friend’s house that has a security gate. There, they were safe as well as their rented van that was packed with food relief and requested supplies such as water filters, etc.

Their goal is to distribute the first load of food supplies today with a local Haitian aid group. Tuesday and Wednesday they plan to distribute the “new and almost new” children’s shoes and water filters in an outlying tent camp.

Getting around PAP is horrendous with the stop’n’go traffic of people and vehicles overcrowding the roads. The roads are lined with the rubble of leveled buildings and few street signs which has made CJ’s job as Navigator and Logistics Manager challenging to say the least. Mark, who is doing the driving, said, “The issue right here is not the food, it’s the distribution and money. It’s a big logjam over here.” It took him three hours to drive only a few miles to fill up their van with gas this morning. Which led Him to drive a total of eight hours yesterday. They will distribute their first load of food and supplies through the secure warehouse facility of their Haitian host, who is a business owner and, after the earthquake, a local disaster relief specialist for a local informal aid network in Port-au-Prince. Nearly all of his employees lost their homes and some family members to the terrible earthquake of January 12th.

hungry, homeless and sad groups of families living in their ad hoc tent camps all over PAP and just outside the disaster zoneThe KIRF volunteers are now trying to source food and requested living supplies locally in Haiti. That way they help the small local vendors and their families while also helping the hungry and homeless when buying and distributing supplies. Much of the time, these groups of people are one and the same. They are working with a local Haitian aid group who is proving invaluable assistance with local contacts, need assessment, security and manpower in preparing family care packages for the homeless. They will be distributing aid directly to those in need the most: hungry, homeless and sad groups of families living in their ad hoc tent camps all over PAP and just outside the disaster zone. It is safer for Mark and his volunteers to work with small groups of earthquake survivors. It is also best to partner with the local community and utilizing the informal aid networks of neighbors, local caregivers, health workers, friends and family members. It is more efficient and these people know each others needs better than some strangers from outside Haiti.

hungry, homeless and sad groups of families living in their ad hoc tent camps all over PAP and just outside the disaster zoneThere are several international food distribution centers inside Port-au-Prince but the aid is not reaching many areas where people have fled the disaster zone and have no transportation. The inadequate distribution is similar to what happened after Hurricane Katrina in MS and LA that I witnessed. The lack of road access and transportation has made sourcing food and water each day for many homeless and impoverished families exceedingly difficult. There is also a shortage of petrol that is further inhibiting aid distribution. However, the Haitians are working hard to deal with a horrible situation and get aid distribution where it is needed.

According to Mark, PAP is a very urban, very chaotic, and a very crowded city. However, the Haitians are nice, helpful, and grateful for the assistance. He has witnessed “no aggression whatsoever.” He has heard of and witnessed instead, countless small acts of kindness: neighbors helping neighbors, strangers helping strangers.