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Friday, 29 January 2010

Christopher - Day 2 Making my way to Haiti across the Dominican Republic

Making my way to Haiti across the Dominican Republic

When we arrive at the airport in the Dominican Republic (the opposite end of the island from Haiti), there is no one to meet us. This is frustrating because there is no back-up plan so we must simply wait. Just as doubts are really beginning to set in, the driver arrives and starts a convoluted journey which seems to involve picking up various ladies and members of his family and shuttling them to where they want to go.

The flights in to Port-au-Prince are impossible. There are so many aid flights trying to get in that there is a ten day back-log. Our logistician team quietly organise a mini-bus and we are off on a five hour journey over the mountains to Haiti.

Now the road is full of traffic going both ways. Low loaders with heavy plant on them, aid vehicles and buses loaded with people and their goods. At first you could miss the damage. A wall around a garden has fallen over, then you notice that a house has one storey too few. The first and second floors are just sitting on a pile of rubble. As we get nearer to the centre, some houses are fine, others have completely collapsed. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

In and around this patch-work of disaster people are getting on with their lives Every open space is a camp of polythene sheets. Every street corner is a small market for food and staples, and brightly dressed people are moving everywhere carrying, talking, trading.

Over the rubble, life has started again…

Life has started again and is spreading a thin but colourful veneer over the death and destruction beneath. The only jarring note is the machine gun mounted white UN armoured cars at every main junction guarding against civil unrest and looting, but then they were probably there before the earthquake.

The airport where we plan to rendez-vous with the rest of our team is a chaotic mass of tented camps with national flags flying and piles upon piles of water, food, tents, and other equipment. Helicopters are shuttling in and out, while teams from all the countries involved move busily around each in their team uniforms. I imagine that jousting tournaments in the middle ages would have looked a little like this with a tented camp of followers around each knight’s pavilion. The co-ordination of this multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-lingual collection of people itching to help must be an absolute nightmare for the UN.

Our headquarters in Haiti

The headquarters of the French Doctors of the World (Med├ęcins du Monde) is based around the house and gardens of a business man who has lent his home to the charity for the duration of the crisis. Their offices have been destroyed. We are all in tents in the garden. No-one is keen to sleep under concrete roofs for the moment, but the ground floor is serving as a wonderful combination of office and communal meeting area.

With a little coffee, some Camembert cheese and some wine, the French have a miraculous ability to create a comfortable ambience that we can work out of. There is a curfew after dark so nothing will happen now until first light. Then the work begins. Must just go and find my dictionary and look up the word for forceps!

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