Haiti Reflection

survivors in amputee hospital

survivors in amputee hospital

As a meeting takes place in New York today to consider the long term reconstruction of Haiti, Joseph Bonner, an official at the UK government’s Department For International Development offers his reflections on a recent visit to Port-au-Prince.

I had the opportunity to accompany International Development Minister, Mike Foster, on a visit to Haiti on 23 March. The visit allowed the Minister to see how UKaid from the Department For International Development (DFID) is helping hundreds of thousands of Haitian people and to recognise the efforts of people from across the UK, including representatives of Catholic and other religious organisations, who have helped in the emergency response to the devastating earthquake which struck on 12 January.

On approach to landing, one could see the devastation of the city and the number of tented camps located across the city. As we got closer it was possible to make out people playing football and this was the first evidence of many that life was continuing despite the horrors we had all seen and read about in news reports.

We know the city was thrown in to chaos because of the scale of loss – but coordination has now improved.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, DFID provided £20 million in funding which has helped more than 350,000 people with water, shelter, food, medical care and other essential supplies. This was in addition to £90 million in public donations from the British people.

The day included meetings with UN chiefs to learn how this funding is being used to deal with the emergency efforts. In addition to this the UK government is funding $50 million through the World Bank, European Commission and Inter-American Development Bank to help with the reconstruction process.

While the international response has been impressive, it was heartening to hear accounts of individual responses: such as the surgeon who flew in on his own small plane from Atlanta and started to perform operations in a field hospital.

With so many people left homeless, almost 900 camps have sprung up across the city. Some in locations which will prove dangerous as the rainy and hurricane season approaches. The race is now on to resettle people into larger camps with better facilities and security.

A highlight of the visit for me was meeting Mia Charlet, aged two, who was rescued from the rubble of a kindergarten by the UK Search and Rescue team. I was particularly pleased that she took an instant attraction to the teddy bear which I had brought from London

As I made my way back to the airport I spotted some of the many vehicles colourfully decorated with windshield stickers proclaiming “In God we trust” and “Merci Jesus”. I reflected that Haitians are a justly proud and resilient people. While they have been dealt a pretty bad hand in the poker game of life, people are getting on just trying to make a living. I also remember the words of one UN representatives from earlier in the day who said: If we can make it in Haiti, we can make it anywhere!"


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