It is hard to believe how a two minute event can so dramatically change the lives in a very negative way for over 8,000,000 people but Haiti is living proof that it is possible. There is living proof and reminders everywhere you go on the strength of mother nature and the impact that a devasting earthquake can have on a society.
I will post many of the photos that I took during the day as I believe that photos can tell this story better than words. However, let me say up front that even these pictures can not truly capture the extent of the devastation nor the misery and poor quality of life experienced by the Haitian people.
We had the chance to visit the main depot of the sanitation department of Port au Prince. For a city exceeding one million people, living in squalor in many cases, there are seventy garbage trucks; but, only forty are in operation due to lack of parts and tires. The depot had mechanics sitting and staring at inoperable trucks sitting on blocks. Trashed dumpsters and older trucks made a big pile of steel waste…breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
The day started off by a tour of the newest tent city that is sponsored by the Haitian government that will eventually house over 100,000 people. You will note in the photos that all the tents look the same and laid out in a much more organized fashion than the ones we visted later in the day.
On paper, the concept of a tent city in the desert area of Haiti away from the town makes a lot of sense. However, in reality it has many drawbacks. The only way they can attract the Haitian people to move to this area is to promise them all two weeks of free food and the hope of a job. The problem is that once the food runs out there is no source of new food and no way to make it back to downtown to get more food. The promise of jobs has not materialized and may never materialize. The end result is a mass evacuation of folks after their initial two weeks.
Short of a succesful pest management plan, the delegation is convinced that in a very short period of time rodents, flies and mosquitoes will overrun the camp and the public health concerns will resemble those of the existing tent cities that we visited.
A visit to a public hospital was enough to discourage us all. Imagine surgery suites overrun with flies and rodents, syringe needles laying all over the floor and human waste in buckets. Rodents feasting on the body parts of corpses that are laying openly on the floor. If you can paint that picture in your mind, you have an image of the conditions on the ground.
The day ended with one of the most visual and depressing visits to a long existing tent city full of kids who know only the reality of their current surroundings. I will let the photos speak for themselves.