A kids-eye view of Haiti

Back in January, international development agency Tearfund gave fifty children in Haiti disposable cameras and asked them to take photos of their homes, families and life in Haiti following the earthquake in January 2010.

The resulting photos give a fascinating insight into the lives of Haitian communities and their lives after the devastating natural disaster that ripped apart their lives, livelihoods and loved ones.

Tomorrow is the official launch of the photo exhibition in Westminster, and the photos will be displayed for a further month in Methodist Central Hall. From donkeys to teddy-bears, the children’s photos document different aspects of the children’s daily lives, and provide some thought-provoking viewing.

These are children who have lost family members in the disaster; many are homeless and waiting for their homes to be rebuilt. They take delight in the small things; cuddling a cat, or watching their mother brush her hair. If you want an entirely different view of Haiti in the wake of the earthquake, then it is well worth a visit.

Published in: on June 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why isn’t aid getting through?

There have been endless reports documenting the plight of the Haitians and their desperate need for assistance, and most have focused on the fact that aid is not arriving, or not getting there fast enough. Some are even delaying their donations to the crisis until they can be sure aid is reaching those who need it most. There is a danger that this perspective puts the blame on humanitarian agencies who are working their hardest to deal with the crisis and portrays them as incompetent.

The earthquake destroyed presidential buildings, homes and vital infrastructure, leaving thousands without food, electricity or water. This has also made it almost impossible for the aid to get through. Roads are covered with debris, communications are down, and survivors have to dig through the rubble with their bare hands. Last week air traffic control systems were non-existent, with no electricity to power essential communication systems, vital to ensure the safe arrival of aid. The airport has been running on a limited service, with only four aircraft allowed to land at any one time, and most aid has been stranded at Santa Domingo in neighbouring Dominican Republic, awaiting authorisation to reach Haiti. Some have driven across the border to Haiti, but treacherous road conditions have presented their own problems. This has understandably led to great frustration, for aid workers and for the Haitians struggling to wait patiently for essential assistance.

Further logistical problems await in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, where surviving buildings are potentially unsafe and aid workers are struggling to find adequate shelter for the thousands of people who have been displaced. Prioritising immediate needs and deploying search and rescue teams has been further complicated by the lack of telecommunications, as mobile networks are down, and aid workers are having to rely on satellite phones. For the humanitarian agencies already on the ground, help cannot come soon enough; some have lost personnel in the earthquake and with their headquarters damaged, and finding enough staff and resources to provide for the scale of the disaster has presented huge logistical difficulties. Many have run out of their initial supplies, having distributed the emergency medical and survival kits within the first few hours of the disaster, but have not had enough to provide for the thousands of desperate survivors.

The humanitarian agencies and military forces are doing all they can to reach the Haitians and provide the vital assistance they need. Yet the chaos that ensues after a natural disaster on this scale is not easily resolved and it will take time for the aid to reach those who need it most. It is difficult to watch the situation unfold, and ask the Haitians to be patient when they so desperately need aid. Yet help is on its way, battling through rubble strewn across roads, tackling broken water pipes and struggling through airports with limited capacity. I don’t envy their task.

More: Why is it taking so long?

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Guilty of ignoring disasters

Just before I fell asleep last night, several alerts came in about the horrific earthquake that had just hit Haiti. For some reason I didn’t stop to think about it, but instead fell asleep lamenting the fact that the MET office had predicted more snow for today.

I’m sure the sense of detachment from natural disasters is common for many people; after all, if it doesn’t happen to you, it’s easier to ignore. But when I read more of the news today I just ended up feeling incredibly guilty. Of course I should care, hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands more are missing, their bodies presumed to be buried under the rubble. I looked up some of the reporters photographs, and suddenly it became all too real, as images of bodies lying in the streets were posted up.

I think sometimes it’s harder to make yourself feel something when things like this happen; it’s so far removed from our own experiences. The last time an earthquake hit Britain, I thought it was just someone taking the bins out at some ridiculously early hour in the morning, and went back to sleep. But Haiti’s earthquake has reduced palaces to rubble, destroyed essential infrastructure, and killed thousands of people. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of what has happened.

I do not envy the task of relief and aid agencies as they confront the chaos, struggling to make sense of the situation and trying to reach those who urgently need help. Haiti is already poverty-stricken, and the challenge of rebuilding and reconstructing its towns and cities will require all its strength and resources, not to mention the support of the international community.

I hope endless reports about the snow here will not obscure the significance of the disaster that has hit Haiti.

Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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