Many of these camps were set up in haste as people abandoned their houses after 12 Jan. Not everyone there lost their homes but the fear of being in a cement block house has driven some to seek refuge there. Again, I understand as this morning we had two more aftershocks, one of them at 1:26 am measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale.
Reorganising these places poses a serious challenge. Coordinating the NGOs hasn’t been easy. As I mentioned in one of my earlier entries, each organization is doing its own thing, at times duplicating work that is already being done. Food distribution is not regular and when it happens a lack of systems and procedure gives way to riots.
Hygiene is nonexistent, clean water needs to be brought in, toilets and showers need to be built and the health issues are a time bomb waiting for the last tick. One of the nurses told me that if mobilization and education of the people is not done quickly, we will soon have to deal with all sorts of epidemic such as dysentery, malaria, scabies, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and a surge in pregnancies followed later on by HIV/AIDS.
To achieve all this, local volunteers, many of them nurses, are partnering with actors and troubadours, teaching, putting on plays and paying personal visits to the tents to answer questions and to encourage them to go to the mobile clinics. According to Dr.Lubin they think they will have to pay, which is not the case. Until they understand that, infections that can otherwise be easily treated will spread and become harder to contain.
Eventually I believe that those who own houses will go back. The issue is with those who have lost everything. What will they do? When will they be relocated? How long before permanent shelters or homes are made available?
Another concern is that of food. An ancient proverb says that “empty stomachs have no ears”, that too is showing to be true as the volunteers report that often their message is not getting through because of the hunger.
I’ve noticed that the main news channels have basically moved on to other fields. Haiti is no longer news; there are no more dead bodies to show. I hope that the people will not be forgotten.
Haiti is a long term project. Rebuilding will take years; it is not a quick fix.