Notes From the Field: Haitians in Desperate Need of Help

On Tuesday, Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake that destroyed houses and left thousands homeless. Many more thousands are feared dead. CARE had staff on the ground and began sending additional emergency team members to the country immediately. Hauke Hoops, CARE's Regional Emergency Coordinator, arrived in Port-au-Prince this morning. The following is his report immediately upon arriving.

This is one of the biggest disasters I've ever seen, and it is a huge logistical challenge. Everything has to come in by plane or boat, but the port is destroyed. The airport is overstretched, overcrowded with flights.

Security is a huge concern. The jail collapsed, and there are 5,000 inmates on the loose. This has caused a lot of fear. It is very dangerous, with repeated aftershocks, and the escaped people from the jail. There are rising tensions. We need to distribute as quickly as possible, but this is a difficult situation to guarantee safety and organize distribution. People have been without food for two days now, and they are starting to get desperate. In this situation, people will do anything to get food and water for their families.

We have 133 staff already working in Haiti, but our staff in Port-au-Prince lost everything - their houses, their families, everything. Staff are totally traumatized. They're trying to help, but we need to bring in additional staff from across the country and international teams. We've seen this before, where staff have lost family members, they are trying to control their own emotions, take care of their families, and at the same time, respond to a massive disaster. You can imagine how difficult this is, if you've lost your children, but there is so much work to do and everyone needs help. It's a nightmare.

There are lots of people in the streets trying to find relief. There is rubble everywhere. Buildings collapsed like a house of cards. I see many people trying to find people in the rubble, underneath the buildings. There are many search and rescue teams coming in, but it's not enough. The people are doing a lot of the rescue by themselves, pulling at the rubble with their bare hands or with shovels. They are listening to see if they can hear people yelling for help. There are fewer people yelling for help now. There are so many places to look, so many houses collapsed, but the search and rescue teams can't be everywhere at once.

There are bodies on the street, bodies everywhere. I passed by bodies in the streets. People are walking by them, it's as if they are sleeping. It's scary. There are dead bodies lined up in rows. Our main priority now is to clear the bodies. There is a fear of outbreak of disease because of the open wounds being left untreated, and lack of sanitation. There is rubbish everywhere.

People need clean drinking water. The water system wasn't completely destroyed. Pipes were broken in the earthquake, but there is some water coming out. People are lining up at the areas where water is coming out. So there is some access but it's not clean water, the pipes have been contaminated. Water purification tablets are very important. CARE has a shipment of water purification tablets that arrived last night, and we need to distribute these right away. We need more water purification tablets.

There is still production of electricity, but they can't turn the power back on because the power lines are down, there are electrical wires in the streets, and people are stepping over them. If they turn the electricity back on now, people might be electrocuted or injured.

There is an issue of access. We can't reach all areas by road. It is difficult to get any trucks; either they are without fuel because the gas stations are empty. There is nothing available here.

There is a huge amount of people in need, but my fear is now how we're going to get to them all. Also we have to do this quickly, to organize with other aid agencies and the government to reach people faster. People are desperate for help, for food, for water.

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