January 23, 2010, Port-au-Prince – More than a week and a half after Haiti’s deadly earthquake, transport delays are clearing up and signs of recovery are emerging. However, aid groups continue to report challenges at distributions and that supply needs and security issues remain.
“Everywhere you go, people are still hungry, still thirsty, still desperate to feed themselves and their families,” said Jean-Claude Mukadi, relief response manager for World Vision in Haiti. “We don’t want to turn away people who are trying to help their families, but in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for the families in each of these camps, we must be able to deliver the relief goods in a safe, timely way.”
Aid groups conduct assessments and provide distribution cards to ensure that the right number of people is present at each distribution. However, it appears that news of distributions spreads by word of mouth, and aid workers often see at least double the number of people they’re prepared to serve at each distribution.
“Even if we had enough supplies to reach all 3 million people in need, we couldn’t distribute them at the same time,” said Mukadi. “We need to distribute food and supplies to smaller groups to protect people’s safety and dignity and to ensure order. But when we arrange to distribute to 500 people and 1,000 show up, it becomes more and more difficult to do that.”
The size and locations of existing camps presents another substantial problem, reports Mukadi.
“Urban disasters differ greatly from rural ones,” he says.
We don’t have the huge open spaces that rural areas afford us so we can’t set up central camps and bring supplies to reach tens of thousands at once. Rather, people are scattered all over the city in abandoned soccer fields, along roads, in parks and tucked up in the hills. Some of these camps are accessible only on foot, so bringing in supplies – even for a few hundred or thousand people – becomes incredibly difficult.
“We can’t set up our usual safety parameters in these locations, because the space itself won’t allow it,” said Mukadi.
World Vision staff meet daily to assess the security situation around Port-au-Prince, to determine the most urgent needs in the communities we serve, and to meet with local camp officials to learn how best to partner to ensure that distributions are conducted safely and in ways that honor beneficiaries’ dignity.
World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. We serve the world’s poor —regardless of a person’s religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.