On the Ground: Destruction and Neglect Beyond Port-au-Prince


On the Ground: Destruction and Neglect Beyond Port-au-Prince

January 18, 2010

While continuous reports on the earthquake in Haiti yield sobering news about the massive destruction of Port-au-Prince, AJWS has learned from our people on the ground that remote areas adversely affected by the quake are being neglected. Joe Duplan, the executive director of Konbit Pou Ayiti (KONPAY)—an AJWS grantee offering community-based solutions to social, environmental and economic injustice—reported that between 30 and 45 percent of the homes in Jacmel, a city that is 160 kilometers southeast of Port-au-Prince where KONPAY is headquartered, have been completely destroyed. Additionally, 3,500 homes have been severely damaged along with 57 schools, 168 businesses, 26 churches, 6 health centers and over 30 government offices.

"What's mind boggling is that here we are, five days after the earthquake, and rescue workers have not been able to enter Jacmel to pull people from the wreckage," Duplan reports. "We have also not received relief supplies. Roads are destroyed and seaports and airports are not being used even though the Haitian government is willing and ready with open arms to receive aid."

Due to road blocks and other obstacles that severely restrict aid deliveries, Duplan explained that hard cash is most needed to locally obtain food, medical supplies and other immediate essentials. The cost of whatever food available has sky-rocketed in just a few days.

Debris removal and urgently-needed operations for protection against contamination caused by rotting corpses and human waste is astronomically expensive. The human casualties reported and displayed in media reports are only a fraction of the total destruction, according to Duplan.

"People need to understand that the streets of Jacmel are now the living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens for the local population. People are actually living in the streets. The streets are destroyed and full of wreckage, preventing aid from getting to us," said Duplan.

Beyond immediate relief, money is desperately needed to rebuild clinics, schools and community centers; to replant crops to replenish the local food supply; to provide psycho-social counseling for earthquake survivors; and to support efforts to rebuild civil society. This process of rebuilding Haiti's infrastructure will take many, many years.