“What we’re saying today is that you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”
Speech in San Francisco, 1968
This week I found the blog of Father Marc Boisvert, who runs a large agency for children, called Pwoje Espwa (Hope in Haiti) 100 miles from Port-au-Prince.
He brings to light another in the evolving miseries facing Haitians more than month after the earthquake: the problems getting international aid to the countryside. A million people (by one report) have fled the city to surrounding towns, where they appear to be forgotten by relief agencies. Some excerpts from Father Marc’s blog:
Am not happy that I don't hear about any food being targeted for the countryside. The authorities are asking people to leave PaP and even giving them free transportation to Les Cayes and other smaller cities but how are we to feed all these people? [Jan. 31]
Families in the countryside are falling apart because they can't find food. There are no jobs and there's no relief in sight. Yes, we are here and there are other groups helping but the need surpasses our abilities. Wasn't it bad enough to suffer through such a massive earthquake that caused thousands upon thousands of deaths, destroyed the city of PaP, displaced a million people? If relief does not come soon for those in the villages and towns, it will be the end of Haiti. [Feb. 2]
Host families have been promised assistance but none has materialized. Requests were made at some major NGOs [Non Governmental Organizations] (one which received hundreds of million of dollars in US donations through the church) for food assistance but nothing has happened. The large NGOs, by their nature, cannot respond quickly in a crisis so maybe it’s just a question of time. I hope so. The problem is that the people are hungry now.
We are seeing a huge increase in requests for assistance from families who live near us so it is safe to assume this is the reality all over Haiti. A friend of ours who was providing for three children now has a house filled with 22. How to care for them?
Folks are begging us for food and we are doing what we can. [Feb. 14]
We were visited today by five representatives from the UN [and two international non-profits]. So far, there have been twenty investigators come to "visit"… We answered their queries and they appeared satisfied… They come to guarantee the safety of the children but don't offer us a dime for their care. I wonder how much is being spent on this? How many reports will be generated in triplicate and then collated and made into a major human rights publication?Now I know that some of this is absolutely necessary but there are times, like right now, when it just seems out of whack with reality. [Feb. 15]
Except for us grass-root small non-profits, there's been no international relief here. How much longer will we be ignored? Tensions are high in [Les Cayes] as people are hungry and have no means to purchase food. Families are hurting under the strain of hosting those from PaP. Heard that a small vessel came to port this afternoon and that there was a riot as people fought to get food. No police or UN military for security. No real plan other than give out food and blankets. Not good. [Feb 16]
[Regarding TIME Magazine article, UNICEF seeks to keep kids out of Haiti orphanages]
The director of UNICEF Haiti is quoted as saying "No to the orphanages in Haiti!" Wow, what a sound bite… a couple of days ago I was ranting about the fancy offices, the cold air-conditioning, the shiny cars of the big NGOs and their strategy to "make systemic change" rather than waste their time actually helping children by feeding them, clothing them, providing medical care...
Well, the one big NGO that had converted an old mansion into a gleaming office space with beautiful furniture and striking art work, that had lots of very busy people working on their computers, that had security guards protecting them from the riff-raff, that had paved over a large courtyard so that they could park their new SUVs...was UNICEF Haiti. They made a conscious choice not to practice direct intervention to assist a child. They have not helped any orphanage that I'm aware of in providing the basics like food, clothing, medicine, education. How very noble to stand there now and say "No to the Haitian orphanages!"
Phew, thanks for listening. I feel better now. [Feb. 18]
[Back to me again here.]
I don’t know anything about UNICEF except what I’m reading on Haitian blogs. This is the third charity blog I know of that has mentioned that organization with frustration. I think they deserve to be heard. One commenter on this particular post wrote: “Jesus didn’t ride around in a white Land Rover writing reports. He was too busy feeding the hungry and healing the sick.”
This post has gone on too long, and I thank you for your patience. I looked for news of Haiti on the BBC, CNN, and MSNBC. The only new story concerned a group of 2,500 people in a camp on the prime minister’s former office property. They say the police have stopped food and water deliveries to force them off the land.
The photos here are from Father Marc’s blog. In the top photo are some of the hundreds of kids living in the Pwoje Espwa compound, who have received new T-shirts. In the bottom photo are two children, Elandia and Judelin, from Port-au-Prince who lost their house in the earthquake. Their mother brought them to live with family in Les Cayes but there's no room and no money, so she asked Pwoje Espwa to take Judelin until she can make other arrangements.
And the good news is: On Monday’s post, Father Marc got the good word that a ship full of supplies, which they’ve been waiting for all month, was finally allowed to leave Miami!
Father Marc says the Haitians have a saying: Pa bliye nou. Translation: Don't forget us.