Haiti: We're all filling the cracks

At 5.10am one morning I woke to what was not someone kicking my bed, it just felt like it. I leapt up with a start. These strong aftershocks continue to get me jumping around. Afterwards I lay outside watching the bright night stars fade into the daylight, I did not want to be inside the house.

By 6.45am the first members of the team are ready to drive down to the office. We currently have over 40 people who have come to work on the response, sleeping in our house and garden, so organizing transport for everyone is a huge task.

The public health team usually splits up into three groups, with two groups going out to the camps we work in to manage the water points, latrine digging and construction of bathing areas, while my team heads out to new sites to assess people’s needs and make recommendations for possible interventions.

Today we visited a site which appears to be filling up with people who have had enough of the noise and discomfort that accompanies sleeping in the middle of theroad. Other families said they had come down from the outlying hilly areas looking for help.

As we walk around the camp I explain that we can provide the materials to make emergency toilets, we can install a big water storage container that the water trucks can come and fill up every day so that there will be free access to water, and we can give them tools to help them keep the site clean.

Our next stop is a small, closely knit fishing community down the road. A robust young woman greets us and shows me around. Several people pull me into their houses to show me the cracks the earthquake has left in the walls.

They, like most Haitians who have stayed in Port-au-Prince are too afraid to sleep in their homes. They show me the collapsed houses that killed their neighbors and the damaged buildings that they fear will fall on them. There are 105 families living here.

Thankfully there is a functioning well so we can provide them with the means and know how to treat water for the community to make it safe to drink. We can also give them plastic sheeting to protect them from the rain. It is such a relief that the earthquake did not hit Haiti during the hurricane season.

While I am particularly focused on water, sanitation and hygiene needs during our assessments, other Oxfam colleagues are investigating other areas including food security and personal safety.

While some camps report relative calm, in others we hear about domestic disputes and women being raped. I did not know that there is a belief that old women suck baby´s blood at night. A couple of older women had been out in areas where they were not known and were beaten to death.

When I return to the office I see that the materials I requested which have been flown over from the UK have arrived. Some of these Oxfam buckets will be used tomorrow to clean the latrines we have built while others will be distributed as part of hygiene kits along with soap, water purification tablets and sanitary wear for women.

I love hearing about miraculous situations. Yesterday a teenager was pulled from the rubble alive over two weeks after the earthquake. Amazing! She had done what Rick our shelter advisor advised me to do in an earthquake. Go to the bathroom. If you get stuck at least you have access to water.

There is no electricity so I´m writing by moonlight listening to night sounds.

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