Saturday, March 20, 2010

haiti: gone and gone

this is a view of the cathedral in downtown port-au-prince. it's hard to capture the essence of a natural disaster --the feeling of desperation that is in the air around you, all of the time. haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, plagued by decades of corruption, violence, genocide, disease and deforestation to the point of desertification. there are few viable pieces of farmland left after the 'papa doc' and 'bebe doc' regimes feom the 1960's through 1980's. this hereditary dictatorship bankrupted the country leaving no money for basics such as fuel, electricity, water. the citizens of haiti cut down all of the forests in the country for light and cooking fuel. within 15 years, the entire country was deforested. during the monsoon cycles, all of the topsoil is washed away. almost nothing grows in haiti anymore; their past cash crops of sugar, tobacco and coffee can no longer thrive in the nutrient-poor soil. the border between haiti and the dominican republic is the only geopolitical border that can be viewed from space. haiti is brown. the dominical republic is lush and green. it's quite tragic.

this is the context within which the earthquake happened. it is estimated that 230,000 people died; however, there are many hundreds of building that have not been entered. undoubtably, there are many more bodies yet to be found.

this is a view of one of the tent cities that populate the immediate area outside port-au-prince. the slum of this city is considered the most dangerous place in the world. currently 99% of haitians are unemployed. there is no official military in haiti, so the UN and the United States are there en masse to help keep things in check. every day there are riots. people are desperate and hungry. most of these tent cities have no running water, no sanitation, no toilets, no law enforcement. we treated gun shot wounds on a daily basis at our field hospital.

honestly, we couldn't tell if this was a new tent village or one of the existing slums that has been part of port-au-prince since before the earthquake. living conditions in haiti are really, really bad. from what we could tell, this was a permanent encampment, and this exemplifies what life looks like in the city.

this is a line of people coming back from a UN food drop. there were lines for miles through port-au-prince. traffic was stopped for hours. there is no telling where this food goes or how it remains in the hands of those who need it. most of the people we helped in the hospital were extremely malnourished and dehydrated. many people have malaria, tuberculosis, dyptheria, typhoid... things we only hear about in the United States.
there are many more things to show and tell. i have only just begun to process this trip. it will take me many moons to get it sorted out in my head. i have gained a perspective i will never lose... i have been humbled by the haitian people, their strength, their will.
i will post more in the coming days, as i am able to make some sense of it. as for these first few days back in Oregon, i am thankful for things that i never even knew i had.


Gaz said...

Humbling looking at those tents and to think of the lives being lived out in them.....

Hope you get to surf soon......

surf: karmic voyager said...

yeah... true.
as for surf: got some of the mellowness that was out here on friday. sunny and smiling, lots of friendly faces. a nice welcome home.