The perspective of the volunteer.
From the front lines Flavia Cherry.
On Sun, Jan 31, 2010 at 10:59 PM, Flavia Cherry wrote:
It is good to see that some efforts are being made to reach women in desperate need, but those of us on the ground are yet to see this happen in many of the areas where there is desperate need for food and relief. AID agencies MUST find a more humane way to reach out to the women and children who are most vulnerable and desperate.
I know that the need is great, there is no excuse for what is the reality on the ground here in Haiti as Caribbean citizens offered help and many have even been denied entry. It is obvious that the aid agencies, (well intentioned as they may be) are unable to handle the scale of the problem here in Haiti. So why are they not being inclusive and involving more Haitian and Caribbean institutions in the relief and recovery efforts?
Something is very wrong about the picture here in Haiti because while international agencies are dropping the ball in an attempt to monopolize aid efforts, Haitians are dying. Apart from lines for women, there is an urgent need for volunteers to go into the camps to reach women, children, disabled and elderly people who are unable to move.
It is a disgrace for so much money to be circling around to all kinds of aid groups and every single day I see so many people hungry, desperate. This situation is simply not acceptable. There are women in camps who have not had anything to eat for days. There are many available Haitians who are willing to assist as volunteers to get the aid to those who need it and CARICOM was willing to send help, but something seems to be really wrong. Why are Caribbean Governments not allowed to play a more pivotal role, especially as there are many CARICOM citizens and regional security officers who speak creole
and would be able to communicate better with the people of Haiti.
What I see on the ground is lots of big fancy air conditioned vehicles
moving up and down with foreigners, creating more dust and pollution on the
roads. Thousands of military officers everywhere, heavily armed like
they are in some kind of battle zone. The girl guides and boy scouts of Haiti are also
out in their uniforms, but unlike the army of troops, they are up and about,
assisting in many ways. I saw a group of the boy scouts and girl guides
directing traffic today, Sunday!
From the very beginning, I have been asking why aid agencies did not
arrange separate lines for women, children and disabled people. It is obvious
that if you leave people hungry for 5 to 8 days without food, they will be
desperate and when food finally arrives, it will be survival of the fittest.
The international agencies allowed confusion to reign supreme for more than two
weeks while sensational and racist media people were merrily portraying images
of hungry people fighting for food. At least now that they have suddenly
realized the need for separate lines, I hope that this happens
at every single
distribution point, because as I am writing this email, that certainly is NOT
I would like to share two separate events which I witnessed yesterday.
The first one is what I call a miracle birth. A young lady who had both
legs amputated delivered a healthy baby on the ground, under a bed sheet. Not
only were both legs amputated, but she had bandages all over her hips. Because
of her condition, this expectant mother should never have been left out there
on the streets at that advanced stage of her pregnancy because the chances of
having a normal delivery in her physical condition were very slim. At the time
of the delivery, people were everywhere, men, women, children, all huddled
together under those sheets, for shelter from the sun. If there
complications, both mother and baby could very easily have passed, as no one in
the camp had any transport or means of getting the mother to a medical
facility. Other mothers were there with their newborns.
This poor mother had nothing, no milk, no clothing for the baby, nothing! A doctor eventually came,but the mother was left there, with her baby, so we brought milk and supplies,including a sleeping bag. I know these are not normal times, but it is exactly for this reason, international aid agencies should be more inclusive and engage all those who are willing and capable of providing support.
The second incident happened in the heart of Port Au Prince yesterday where the largest number of people are living under the most inhumane conditions. I was taking pictures, when suddenly everyone started to run towards the
Palace gates. I stood on top of a vehicle and realized that it was President Preval who had ventured onto the lawn and people starting shouting out to him, saying that they were hungry. President Preval came to the fence and hundreds of people kept running towards the fence. Many of them were shouting ¨Lavalas,
Aristide, Lavalas, Aristide¨.
Several others were asking President Preval why he had not addressed his people and told them what was happening. One woman put it this way: (I have not had anything to eat for four days and no one is hearing anything from the President, we have no idea what our Government is doing). I am using brackets because I cannot find quotation marks on this
President Preval spoke to those who were closest to the fence, but the large number
of people who were pushing and shoving to get a glimpse of him,obviously heard nothing. At least I got a picture of the whole scene,including President Preval behind the fence with hundreds of people right next to him on the other side.
Something about that scene convinced me even more,that there is really no need for such a heavy military presence in Haiti. What Haiti needs is an army of medical, civilian and specialist volunteers who will work with the people of Haiti to rebuild their nation - not a heavily armed
military of more than 50,000 standing guard over them.
PS: I must express appreciation for the many volunteers from various
countries who are giving very genuine assistance to the people of Haiti, but my
comments remain relevant
because of the reality on the ground.
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Forwarded by Ezili's Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
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