Its over six months now after the earthquake that ripped through Haiti on 12th January 2010 this year, normal activities have gradually returned to the Caribbean country. The people are gradually putting behind them the devastating shocks suffered from the disaster and looking forward to a better life. However, from the streets to the buildings that are still standing and dots of camps used by the displaced population bellies realities of the time.
In Port-au-Prince, capital city of the country, the streets are usually very busy on a normal working day. Commercial motorists use pick-up vans locally called “Tap-tap” and few other buses for the city transportation through the mostly narrow streets and tight residential areas. The vans, with covered cabins are usually painted in very colourful and competitive designs fitted with loud music. Undoubtedly “Tap-tap” is the national symbol of commercial transportation in Haiti. With these, the people are able to move from one part of city to the other and even across the country.
The Haitians are largely made up of African skin colour and few population of a mix race commonly of mulatto descents that live around the Petion Ville area. By definition of the old slave trade, the people were collated from different parts of the present day African tribes and countries. Therefore, it was easy to adopt Creole as a common language for communication.
The Haitian earthquake, which lasted for just about 10 seconds flattened many houses and trapped people under the rubbles while property of inestimable values were also destroyed. Months after the disaster, rubbles are still common in sight due to the magnitude of the devastation. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some of the trapped victims are yet buried under some of the rubbles. However, few bulldozers could be seen removing the debris which may certainly take several months due to the enormity of the widespread hips of the damaged houses. Though, some survivors are still struggling to put behind the memories of their lost ones. For instance, there is an unidentified young man that would cry every time he remembers how his mother died under a collapsed structure.
Life in most of the camps is one of the worst nightmares for the displaced persons. They are not certain of any hope for early return to decent homes after the disaster. The tents used are mostly small in sizes and privacy has been lost due to the crowded situation in the camps. In rain they are faced with challenges of water flowing under the tents and under the sun is the scorching heat. The hurricane season in the country brings along more challenges to the camps with most of the tents being regularly blown off. Gladly, there are regular supplies of water and considerable number of mobile toilets, which have been very helpful in the hygienic condition of the camps. Thanks also to the local volunteers that engages in the regular cleaning of the environment and the toilets.
The calls for more relief assistance to the victims are certainly genuine given the enormous challenges being faced by the people. Earlier in May this year, the federal government approved relief assistance was delivered to the victims through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Port-Au-Prince. The then Director General of the agency retired Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Audu-Bida led the government delegation that delivered the items which were given through the Haitian Ministry of Interior, Department of Civil Protection. The Director Adjunct of the department Mr Pinchinat Pierre-Louis who received the items on behalf of the government and victims could not hide their joy. Beside the positive diplomatic gesture, the assistance and those from other sources provided much needed relief to the victims. Though the full cargo plane load of the materials may not be enough to go round all the camps, but its impact certainly justifies the genuine intention. The items were made up medicament, toiletries and clothing materials among others.
The fragile economic and political situations in Haiti require the international responses to assist the poor masses of the country. The earthquake destroyed lots of the people’s sources of economic survival. Being in the camps, the victims largely depend on aids in a country where unemployment had already been very high. For over 200 years of its independence, its chequered political history has been very unhelpful. Even in the sober mood of disaster, the political gladiators still hold on to the throats of another.
The victims of the Haitians earthquake certainly require more relief assistance. The International community; government and non-government organizations should rise up to offer more help.
Manzo Ezekiel, was in Haiti recently writes from
National Emergency Management Agency