While Haiti has faded from the headlines in recent weeks, the trials faced by so many Haitians have very definitely not faded away. While humanitarian assistance has saved many lives, the situation in the earthquake-affected areas is still dire, with the potential to get worse.
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – While Haiti has faded from the headlines in recent weeks, the trials faced by so many Haitians have very definitely not faded away. While humanitarian assistance has saved many lives, the situation in the earthquake-affected areas is still dire, with the potential to get worse.
This last week I have been back in Port-au-Prince, working with the Independence-based non-profit Outreach International, which supports primary education programs in Haiti. Our local staff, like so many people, still live under tarpaulins and tents, and rubble still lies piled high in the streets. The scale of the devastation is staggering and it is going to take, in my estimation, at least five years to rebuild.
The seasonal rains have begun, making life extremely unpleasant for the hundreds of thousands in makeshift shelters. As the country is severely deforested, the rains also carry the threat of mudslides and flooding that have, in the past, caused serious damage to life and property in Haiti. We wait in trepidation for the hurricane season, when many of the temporary shelters will not be adequate to protect people from the high winds.
I have been lucky to be in a safe and dry house at night, but felt deeply ambivalent about it – aware that every drip I heard on my window pane represented a threat to many people's comfort and safety.
The situation in the schools in the earthquake-affected zone is equally difficult. It will take several years to properly rebuild the school infrastructure in Haiti, to make sure it is done in a child-friendly and disaster-resistant manner. But in the meantime, children and their teachers are meeting under tents, tarpaulins and trees.
In a worrying development, the slow progress toward a more livable situation is boiling over into political frustration. There have been more demonstrations, a building anger toward the government and the international community and rumors of people who want to “change the government.” We hope that the political ferment that is necessarily in any free society does not boil over into more serious instability and insecurity.
Unfortunately, the lowered profile in the news media and the emergence of new disasters like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have also reduced the amount of private donations coming in to many aid agencies. These small gifts can go a long way, particularly when they are unrestricted cash, and are incredibly valuable to an organization like Outreach International.
Haiti still needs help from Examiner readers like you - it needs people to stay informed, raise awareness of what is going on, pray for its people and raise funds in their communities, churches, schools and workplaces. While the earthquake lasted only a few seconds, its impact will be felt for years to come. Rebuilding Haiti will require a long-term, sustained commitment, not a short-term fix.