Haiti’s Problems aren’t over – Online Report

The earthquake was only the beginning of Haiti’s problems. Gary Bruce, a humanitarian worker, discusses the ongoing issue of cholera in the country.

Haiti Earthquake

The aftermath of the 7 magnitude earthquake which left hundreds of thousands dead.

By Sean Geddes

On the 12th of January 2010 a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated Haiti. The international community immediately responded with countries, aid organisations and religious bodies all travelling to Haiti to provide support for the survivors and begin the cleanup operation.

In that year the earthquake was the 17th most talked about topic on the social media site Twitter, millions of tweets where sent around the world, with a Twitter announcing that a tweet about Haiti being the most powerful tweet that year. Hundreds of Facebook pages where set up and millions of pounds raised for the relief effort.

The media furore and the social media buzz pushed aid and governmental agencies out to the country without a coherent plan and coordination, this lead to disjointed and inappropriate aid. The free-for-all had everyone from Save the Children to Scientology trying to help the survivors of the earthquake.The initial rush of humanitarian aid is seen as a great thing for humanity in general, but it was not without its problems. A source at the Government has said that reports have been produced that show how the Haiti response was a blueprint for “how not to deliver humanitarian aid”.

This initially led to blocked ports and airports completely stalling the aid effort. Essential stock, such as water and medicines, was mixed with non-essential. This was eventually sorted out, but it did lead to condemnation of the aid effort by the public.

Almost 2 years later and Haiti is still struggling to repair the damage done by the earthquake and to come to terms with the death of 200,000 people in the initial earthquake and with the deaths that have followed.

Cholera has claimed 5397 deaths as of June 2011 according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)

In March 2010 Gary Bruce returned from a humanitarian aid secondment with Save the Children US and described the problem that Cholera is having in Haiti.

“Cholera had never been in Haiti so no one had any immunity to it and it spread like wildfire” said Mr Bruce.

Gary Bruce (51) is New Zealand born, but brought up in Glasgow. He had a troubled childhood and these troubles followed him through his teens and into adulthood. In 1991 Mr Bruce attempted suicide. After his failed attempt Bruce visited his mother in England and had a spritual experience which made him want to help people. He starting as a volunteer for Edinburgh Direct Aid, meeting the founder Dr Denis Rutovitz outside the train station in a “beat up old blue Volvo with a dog in the front called Boris”.

Sometimes sleeping in the warehouse in which Edinburgh Direct Aid were based to show how willing he was, Bruce was allowed to go with a shipment to Bosnia in late November 1991. Since then he has delivered humanitarian aid all over the world including Kosovo and Rwanda.

Save the Children had been in touch with Bruce on numerous occasions. “When you work in the aid world you become well known for the work you do and your willingness to go to dangerous places” Bruce said describing why Save the Children asked him to go to Haiti.

He was sent over to help with the logistics of setting up treatment centres for Cholera.

“Education has started but when I was first out there people were waiting before bringing anyone to the centres, thinking it bad voodoo and often waiting until someone had died before bringing someone in.


Voodoo is still practised in Haiti

Unfortunately the lack of clean water meant that the people being treated where sent back out to infected areas. Basic hygiene was something that had to be taught, washing hands after going to the toilet for example.”

The people of Haiti are better than they were but still more needs to be done.

Of the requested aid for Haiti $200million -$150 million for the earthquake response and $54 million for ensuing cholera response- just $120million has reached the country as of January this year and now that the media has moved on to other stories it has gone out of the international community’s awareness.

People are still living in tent cities trying to make a living by selling things at the side of the road. There is no help from their government, like there would be in the UK and other countries. Gary Bruce said “There is no social security system, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. We don’t know how good we have it in this country [UK]. We give a little bit of money and it alleviates our conscious, but for the Haitians it is ongoing.”

Haiti is on the mend, but it will take decades of Investment from the international community to ensure that the Haitians can live in a clean and stable country.

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