The earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti has left devastation and immense pain in its wake. What was always a difficult situation in an impoverished country has become a true nightmare for the Haitian people.
The streets of Port au Prince, Haiti are filled with rubble, smoke, human remains and the smell of the dead. Downtown Port au Prince is what one might picture as the end of days. Bodies decompose on the streets and the hands of the dead and trapped reach out from the rubble. Hundreds of Haitians are fighting for survival, looting the destroyed stores and fighting for what they have pillaged. I witnessed countless beatings and was twenty feet away from a young woman when she was shot in the face and killed by police (I will post these images in my next post on the earthquake in Haiti.) A photos of her husband crying over her body is in this post.
Refugee camps are literally on every block and public parks have become make-shift homes to thousands. Families construct shelters out of flimsy fabric sheets and sleep in the squalor of waste, refuse and dirt, cooking simple meals in the same gutters that must be used as toilets and bathing areas. In the several dozen refugee camps I visited, I never once saw an aid worker, food supplies, shelter supplies or any form of assistance or education as to how to avoid disease and survive in this difficult situation. While it is necessary to search for survivors, it is also necessary to take car of those who have survived.
Although the situation after the earthquake in Haiti is horrible, the spirit of the Haitian people is truly strong and beautiful. Although there is violence in the streets, the vast majority of people are just struggling to survive and helping their friends, family and neighbors to do so also. Much, much more needs to be done to help the people of Haiti recover and live in dignity and this need will continue for a very long time. This disaster will take years to recover from, not just months. We must continue to pay attention to the situation there and remember that while there is dire and immediate need there, this will not go away after a few weeks of media attention and fund raising. I urge all of you to get involved in any way you can in the effort to help the Haitian people.
A woman passes in front of the burning remains a destroyed building in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti in the wake of the Haitian Earthquake.