‘The Spirit of the People’ Still Strong in Post-Earthquake Haiti

Lee Nelson-Save the Children  


Lee Nelson, Save the Children country director



Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 26, 2010

A little girl named Eliassaint, age 10, used to live in Plaine, Croix des Bouquets, a northern suburb of Port-au-Prince known for its rich history and culture. But the earthquake took both her home and her parents from her. She now resides in camp Cepem, Delmas 33, in Port-au-Prince.

The camp currently holds 400 families, as well as 38 children who have lost their parents. Eliassaint (pictured at right with another child in the camp) was rescued by her uncle.

Eliassaint: Save the Children“I was behind my house studying when the earthquake happened. My mother and father were inside and they died, so did my three cousins,” she said. 

“I do not have any brothers or sisters. My uncle looked after me and then he and my aunt brought me to this camp.”

Eliassaint’s story is all too common for many Haitian children. It is estimated that approximately 500,000 children now are unaccompanied, orphaned or left with one parent, as a direct result of the earthquake. 

The situation in Haiti, prior to the quakes, was already a precarious one for children. About 80 percent of the population lived on less than $2 per day, and one in four children was malnourished. 

There were huge problems with child trafficking and child education. However, this most recent blow is endangering the future of an entire generation of Haitian children. 

In the midst of this unprecedented calamity, two things have sustained the staff and given us hope for Haiti’s future. 

First, the spirit of the people has been remarkable. On the streets, where tens of thousands still sleep at night, and in hundreds of makeshift camps that have sprung up in clearings amid the rubble, there is still a sense of community where neighbors and strangers work together for survival.

Second, the scale and extent of the support received from Save the Children’s members around the world has been incredible. We are truly working together as a global organization with an amazingly dedicated team that have been willing to immediately act in aiding children in very vulnerable positions.

The heartfelt messages  of support, the highly qualified staff who report every day and the extraordinary amount of financial and media support has given me the sense of belonging to a family.

Child Friendly Space: Save the Children On the ground, Save the Children programs are rapidly scaling up, and every day we reach more and more children and their families. Already we have helped about 10,000 children, like Eliassaint, who now can play in safe spaces. None of this would have been possible without members’ critical assistance.

This is only the first step in a long road to recovery for Haiti. Save the Children has been working here for more than 32 years, and it is vital that humanitarian groups see this as a long-term effort.

In this initial relief stage, Save the Children will create even more Child Friendly Spaces to help children to recover from their trauma and provide their parents with time and resources for economic recovery.

Getting children back to school as quickly as possible will help return some semblance of normalcy to their shattered lives.

Many other challenges also remain, and the organization cannot do this alone. Disaster events can sharpen the focus on the true problems of a struggling country and provide unique opportunities to address fundamental problems in new and creative ways.

So this dispatch brings a message of thanks and a request for your continued support, guidance and vision to enable Save the Children to join in a common effort to help Haiti “build back better”.

Learn more about our emergency response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only). Standard message rates  apply.

Andrise’s Family Receives Water, Hygiene Kits, Household Supplies from Save the Children Distribution

Colin Crowley, Save the Children multimedia emergency response team

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 21, 2010

Andrise_female_9yrs: Save the Children  

Andrise is a 9-year-old girl whose home was destroyed by the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Watch a video of Andrise

She and her mother are currently living in a makeshift camp in the neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles.

 

On January 21, Save the Children carried out a distribution that provided people in this camp with much-needed household items, hygiene supplies and clean drinking water. I interviewed Andrise just after her family received the aid and translated her comments for this blog.

She said, "The day of the earthquake I was washing myself outside when the house started shaking, shaking, shaking. My little cousin was next to me and we got scared and ran back inside the house."

"When we got inside, one of the walls collapsed down to the floor. Another house right next to ours collapsed and two small babies who were inside died. I thought that we were all going to die. I thought it was the end of the world."

When all this happened, Andrise's mother was in class at the university and she had to run outside when the school building started shaking. She was shocked and scared because she thought that Andrise had died. But then Andrise's stepfather found her and took her back to her mother.

"I feel so bad because I have several cousins who died in the earthquake," cried Andrise. "I also have an uncle who died. I know so many people who died when their houses collapsed."

"Our family lost everything. There is a big crack running through our house and it is nearly destroyed. It will only take another shock to knock it down completely so we don’t feel safe living there."

"Now we are living here in this camp. But we’re not comfortable here in this situation because this is the first time we’ve ever had to sleep outside in a place like this."

"This morning Save the Children came and gave us some things that we needed. We had lost hope that any help was going to come, but this morning they came and they gave us water, soap, plates and things. Everybody lined up outside the camp to receive their things."

"I would like to leave this place and I would like for us to get a better place to live and have food to eat and all the other things we need. We don’t want to live this kind of life."

Watch a video of Andrise

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

Judith Louise and her Baby Helped by Save the Children

Save the Children: Colin Crowley

Colin Crowley, Save the Children multimedia emergency response team


Makeshift Camp, Leogane, Haiti

January 20, 2010

Judith Louise lost her 6-year-old son in the earthquake and very nearly lost her 15-day-old baby boy, who does not yet have a name because he has not been baptized.

SC_AZ33: Save the Children

"When the earthquake struck, I was in the bedroom," said Judith Louise.

"I tried to run, but it knocked me down and I couldn't go back inside to grab the child. Outside, they asked me where was my baby. I told them I didn't know."

"The baby's grandfather went back inside and he saw that the baby had fallen on the ground. The wall had collapsed next to the baby and he was covered in dust. When they pulled my child out, I thought he was dead."

Judith Louise's husband, Friesnel, said, "The baby wasn't moving or breathing. It took a long time to revive him. When Judith Louise started nursing him, though, he came back to life."

"We were lucky to find the child alive," said Friesnel.

"Our house was completely destroyed. We lost everything. Everyone's house has been destroyed, so now we are equal as one – you understand. We don't have anything to survive with. Even if we have money, we can't find anything to buy. Nobody is giving us anything. We're all suffering here."

Save the Children: Field Worker Friesnel worries about how his family will survive, living in the streets.

Save the Children's Kathryn Bolles (pictured at right) helps families like those of Judith Louise and Friesnel by providing medical and nutrition supplies.

"We need to rebuild our houses. Our baby is suffering because we don't even have money to buy milk. We need money to reorganize our lives. We need food to come to this country in order for all of us to survive."

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

Haiti Earthquake Emergency Podcast

Eyewitness Accounts of Haiti Earthquake Disaster Moderated by Cokie Roberts – Jan 19 2010

Save the Children trustee and award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts moderates the first, four-person panel session with call-in questions to Save the Children experts and rescuers on the ground in Haiti. On January 12, 2010, Save the Children launched an emergency relief effort to assist children and families in Haiti following a major 7.0-magnitude earthquake near the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

(To listen to the Podcast, roll your mouse arrow over the gray box and click.)

In this first episode, the speakers are:

Charles MacCormack, Save the Children president and CEO - 11 min. segment

Lee Nelson, Save the Children's Haiti country director – 8 min. segment

Kathryn Bolles, Save the Children's emergency health and nutrition director – 9 min. segment

Rudy von Bernuth, Save the Children vice-president and managing director – 6 min. segment

Learn more about our emergency response to the earthquakes in Haiti.

Save the Children Sets Up Child Friendly Spaces for Children like Angelo

Save the Children_002 

Filippo Ungaro, Save the Children, communications manager  


Makeshift Camp, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 19, 2010

Angelo, age 8, lost his home and all of belongings in the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Today, he and his seven brothers and sisters are living with their mother in a crowded temporary encampment on the grounds of a church.  

Save the Children

The family survived with only the clothes on their backs. What little food they have they receive from friends. 

Angelo and his sister were just outside their house when the earthquake hit. 

“I was looking for my mum and I was really scared,” he says.  “Now we don’t even have a tent to sleep in. I don’t have anything, not even clothes.” 

Angelo, who would like to be a football player when he grows up, says he misses his home, his classmates and his school.

“I would like to go back home but I know that it’s impossible now. I’m not going to school anymore. It’s a shame because I like school,” he says. 

A third-grader, Angelo’s favorite class is grammar. Instead of being in class since the disaster, he says he spends his time playing with friends “even if I don’t have many here.” 

Save the Children is establishing a Child Friendly Space on the grounds of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ruelle St. Cyr, Carrefour Ti-Four, so that children in the encampment where Angelo is staying have a supervised place to play.

Save the Children_001

Angelo’s mother, Maria Josette, said their house had been paid for but now they will have to start over.  

“The situation is not good for us,” she says. “I have nothing left.”

Photo credits: Antonio Bolfo/Getty Images

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

Save the Children President and CEO Arrives in Haiti, Visits Center for Displaced Children

Charles MacCormack, president and CEO Save the Children

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 17, 2010

Save the Children: Charles MacCormack

It's a race against time to get food, water and medical supplies to the people who for five days now have received very little aid. At this center for displaced children, the kids now feel safer and are cared for by trained staff.

Even in the most challenging of situations, Save the Children has been able to deliver urgently needed food, water and medical supplies. And we are doing that right now!

We are working to set up Child Friendly Spaces in areas where families have been setting up camp.


These areas will ensure the safety of children in the camps.

It gives them the opportunity to play and begin to recover from the death, injury and destruction they have witnessed, and the lack of necessities they have endured.

Photo credits: Adriana Zehbrauskas/Polaris

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

First Hospital Supplies Delivered by Save the Children Staff, Distribution of Water to People in Street

Ian Rodgers, John Bugge, Save the Children emergency staff

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 16, 2010

Here is a brief on-the-ground update on one of our first distributions in Port-au-Prince:

Espoire Ian Distribution-Save the Children

A 20-foot container that Save the Children filled in the Dominican Republic and sent overland was delivered today to the Hospital de l'Espoir (Hope Hospital).

It contained hygiene kits (rubbing alcohol, soap, towels, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, shampoo, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, disinfectant gel, chlorine, diapers and water) plus food and water. 

Espoire2_john.JPGBuggewater

The
food will serve 2,000 people and the supply included such items as
tinned fish, crackers, rice, beans, powdered milk, tomato sauce,
bottled water and cooking oil.

We provided some of the goods to people
on the street, as well. 

Photo credits: Win McNamee/Getty ImagesWater Distribution-Save the Children








Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

Hope in Haiti: ‘Miracle Baby’ Winnie Pulled from Rubble, Save the Children Health Staff Providing Medical Supplies

Save the Children: Kathryn Bolles



Kathryn Bolles, emergency health and nutrition director


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 16, 2010

I arrived in Haiti on Thursday as part of our response to the earthquake. On Friday, we began assessing the health situation for children and their families affected by the largest natural disaster to strike Haiti in 200 years.

Our first stop was to the General Hospital in the center of town — this is one of the only "functioning" hospitals. The scene there was dire in terms of the huge needs. Patients overflowed from the hospital building and were lying in the compound awaiting treatment. The hospital is still receiving patients, but it is chronically short of supplies and staff. 

The medical director of the hospital, however, was an inspirational person and explained the situation: two-thirds of the hospital is damaged and yet he remains determined to keep it open to meet the needs of the people injured in the earthquake. 

Even in the face of such adversity, he had a calming, positive attitude — while he spoke, a pregnant woman went into labor and he took the time to treat her. 

When we left the hospital, we saw two makeshift camps where people had gathered. One held 5,000 and had only four latrines. All of these latrines were full, however, and could no longer be used.

Save the Children: KBoles in Haiti

The lack of sanitation leads to issues around hygiene and can lead to increases in disease. During situations like this children are the most susceptible to hygiene-related diseases.

Even in these conditions, life goes on. While visiting the camp, we met one woman who had already given birth, with another women going into labor before our eyes.

There is very little shelter, however, and people are crowded together in very basic conditions.

When I arrived back at the office, I saw Winnie, a little girl under the age of 2, who had just been pulled from the rubble and was being treated by Save the Children's medical staff.

Save the Children: Winnie "Miracle Baby"

It was such an uplifting sight that provided hope during these difficult times.

Even as I watched, you could see her getting her strength back and regaining the color in her cheeks and the twinkle in her eyes.

It's hard to imagine that such a young child could survive for nearly three days under the rubble.

It's given me hope for the hundreds of thousands of children who have been affected by the earthquake. They are clearly strong and resilient.

We just need to support and protect them.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222 (US Only).

Racing to Get Relief to Families in Desperate Need, Save the Children Begins Distribution of Relief Supplies

Save the Children: Annie Foster



Annie Foster, Save the Children emergency team leader


Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 15, 2010

Starting last night, Save the Children’s response team began distributing IV solutions and medicines to 14   hospitals and clinics throughout the Port-au-Prince region. 

A truck load of family kits and hygiene kits just arrived at our office in Haiti from our office in the Dominican Republic.  We will begin distributing those supplies immediately.

We have 20 vehicles and 27 motorcycles to enable us to deliver aid.

We are seeing dazed, dehydrated parents walking the streets with their children, searching for clean water and food.  

Many are starting to congregate in open spaces, setting up makeshift camps. 

They are particularly fearful of being in or near buildings, as strong after shocks are continuing — one occurred at 5 am this morning. 

Save the Children will be starting "safe space" areas for children in these camps, and also beginning child tracing programs to reconnect children who were separated from their families during the emergency.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.

YOU CAN DONATE $10 TO THE HAITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222.

More Emergency Responders Arriving in Haiti from Save the Children

Ian Rodgers, Save the Children emergency response adviser

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 13, 2010

Ian RodgersECU

Morning today in Haiti was very eerie.

Last night, only a few hours  after the quake, a couple of our staff and I tried to get some sleep out in the garden of the office, but the frequent, violent aftershocks and the sounds of people crying, wailing in the distance made sleep impossible.

We had to sleep outside because our office compound was damaged in the quake.  The wall around the compound was destroyed and the pipes inside burst, so we can’t go back in yet because we are afraid of being electrocuted. 

But we are fortunate. Our office is a solid multi-story structure and fortunately, it survived the quake much better than many others buildings in the neighborhood.

Last night and throughout the day today, we’ve provided shelter to injured neighbors, children, diplomats and other NGO staff who have come to our compound for help. And today we were able to assist 3 people to be evacuated: an American, a Frenchman and a Spaniard.

This morning, as daylight broke, rescue efforts resumed. Because roads have been destroyed, we headed out by foot to walk around the neighborhood and survey damage as well as talk to children and families.  There is so much debris and rubble in the streets that we can’t get our vehicles through to do a proper assessment. So we instead headed out by foot to try to get a sense of what’s happened.   

When we spoke to children and families, it was clear that people are very much in shock.  We saw a lot of people still crying. There were so many distressed people – some of them were wailing, trying to find loved ones under debris and rubble. I’ve worked in a lot of disaster areas all over the world – and it was incredibly eerie to see so many people in shock.

This afternoon another guy on staff and I headed out by motorbikes to look for food and water, and try to do a more extensive assessment. We have only 11 drums of water left in the office and limited food.

We made it down the mountainside to the plateau – and everywhere we went, we saw massive destruction and people trying to dig through the rubble. We also saw small groups of people gathering at petrol stations or any place still standing. Of course this is not safe – they are standing on top of petrol tanks that may have been damaged and there is no organization, no relief efforts underway yet.

I’m really worried, it is expected to rain tonight and all the dust will turn into mud, making everything even worse.  In addition to making the search and rescue more difficult, it will also increase the risk for mudslides, especially during the aftershocks. 

It’s late now and it’s been a long day.  I am relieved that we have more emergency responders arriving from Save the Children tomorrow. Hopefully they will bring water purification tablets and food. We will be working to get our initial response – hygiene and shelter kits – up and going and hope that by tomorrow we will be able to make the first distributions.

Help Us Respond to the Haiti Earthquake Emergency. Please Donate Now.