Monday, February 8, 2010

Haiti: Genocide by Omission

By Flavia Cherry
If ever there was genocide - this is it!  People who are very sick are being left in camps where no help is available (see a piicture of one of the camp sites, made only of bed sheets hang up by flimsy sticks).

I interviewed thirty eight women and every single one of them was hungry.  One lady who gave me her phone number, said that supplies were only distributed once and since there was pushing and shoving, they never came back to her area.  She said that some of the bags of supplies were being diverted to private warehouses, re-packaged and then re-sold to them.  She explained how some of this is being done by the elites.  She gave me her phone number and asked me to please help them.


See picture of how women and children are living in the camps - those who are lucky enough to at least have a bed-sheet covering over their heads. Some had not seen any supplies for days.  Pregnant women are having miracle babies on the bare ground in tents where there is no running water, no chances of getting emergency help, if there are complications.  The most painful part is to see sick children and disabled people forced to live on the sidewalks.  One of the pictures shows the way people are living on the sidewalks with no shelter.  The only place for a desperately sick child (in the same picture) is for him to be slumped over a bucket, with the middle part of his body hanging into the bucket.
I tried hard not to be overcome by the agony of sight in the many areas where human suffering is most  severe.  A Human Rights activist in Haiti told me about a French newspaper report (in France) regarding French doctors chopping off limbs when it was totally unnecessary, so someone should check this out. 
So many people are starving and hungry.

Haitians are demonstrating because too many of them are left without food for extended periods.  One must really ask why, when so much has been donated and so much is available for distribution?  I have seen people carrying American labelled bags of rice and other goods.  There are distributions in some places and I did see areas where there were lines for women only, but the bottle necks continue.  If something is not done, there will be more demonstrations and eventually, riots for food.  Is that the intention?  Is this being done to justify the need for millitary intervention?  People are being pushed to an unacceptable, unconscionable limit.  I am very worried about the way people are living, because when the rainy season starts, the genocide by omission will be multiplied many times over.

Haitians are the most resilient, most creative people on the planet!  I cannot begin to explain here, the way people are organizing and helping each other in this tragic situation.  One woman made a stove/grill, with material from the rubble and it is being shared by the other women in her camp.  She proudly showed me her invention (see photo).
I believe that Haitians will overcome, but we must reach out to them.  CARICOM can make use of so many of us in the region who speak French and Creole.  It is very clear that the international agencies cannot handle the scale of the problem, so CARICOM should ask them to collaborate and provide some of those resources (especially as Caribbean citizens have been donating) so that Caribbean citizens can assist wherever possible.

I think there is a lesson in this for us in the Caribbean.  We need to be more organized for disasters which can happen to any island because the same things which are happening to Haiti, could happen to any of the islands where we live.  And if international agencies do not cooperate with CARICOM, then we should have a campaign to advise Caribbean citizens not to donate to any of those institutions, but rather to a Caribbean Disaster Fund.

I see the hope in the children of Haiti.  All is not lost.  I have a beautiful photo of the baby who was born to a double amputee, thanks to our intervention and support.  In some areas people are beginning to hustle for survival and organize their lives in whatever way the can; all things considered.  Some women vendors are already selling produce by the roadside.  We can learn a lot from the creativity and tenacity of our Haitian brothers and sisters.

The Red Cross

Posted By Stabroek staff On January 14, 2010 @ 5:21 am In Local News

Guyana has pledged US$1 million in assistance to Haiti following the major earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation on Tuesday.

President Bharrat Jagdeo made the announcement in a statement yesterday and later met with political parties, religious organisations and non-governmental organizations to coordinate a national response to aid in recovery efforts. Minister of Human Services, Priya Manickchand has been named chair of the multi-stakeholder committee.

“I am deeply shocked and saddened at the extent of the destruction caused by the catastrophic earthquake which devastated our sister nation of Haiti yesterday. The haunting images of bodies, injured persons and ruined buildings struck a chord of compassion throughout our nation for the people of Haiti”, said Jagdeo.

Haiti as the poorest country in the western hemisphere is now severely challenged to cope with this tragedy, the President added, and it needs all countries, including the small developing countries, to come to its aid urgently.

Speaking with the Government Information Agency (GINA), Manickchand said that while an assessment of the full impact of the earthquake is still to come, the need to act quickly is critical. GINA reported that the Minister noted that all parties involved in the meeting recognized the urgency of the situation. She indicated that the first meeting of the committee will be held today at the Civil Defence Commission, and stakeholders will identify the persons who will serve on the committee. The minister said that relief efforts will be two-pronged: immediate assistance will focus on relieving the ongoing human suffering while the long-term effort will seek to rebuild the country. Participants at the meeting have called on Guyanese to be forthcoming in rendering assistance to Haitians, both in financial contributions and goods.

Meantime, last evening, Manickchand, in a statement to GINA accused the local Red Cross society of attempting to “undermine” the national effort. GINA reported that the Minister expressed disappointment at a message sent by the Guyana Red Cross Society via the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) company. She said, according to GINA, that the Red Cross was present at the meeting convened by the President and despite the NGO signing on to the national effort; “it has instead sought to undermine the effort by issuing the text message appealing for help.”

“It is disappointing and sad that the Red Cross appears to be departing from this noble, patriotic decision taken today, for aid to be nationally coordinated and appears to be engaging in an attempt to stymie a national effort,” she was quoted as stating.

GINA said that Manickchand urged the society to be “guided by the understanding that divided efforts will hardly realize the level of assistance that can be provided for the people of Haiti”. Further, she urged all those who are desirous of contributing to this cause, to do so through the National Committee for Guyana’s Assistance to Haiti by calling telephone number 226 4080, GINA reported.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Haiti, Still Starving 23 Days Later

February 5 - 7, 2010

"No Milk, No Clothing for the Baby, Nothing!" 

By BILL QUIGLEY 

You can walk down many of the streets of Port au Prince and see absolutely no evidence that the world community has helped Haiti. Twenty three days after the earthquake jolted Haiti and killed over 200,000 people, as many as a million people have still not received any international food assistance.

On February 4, the UN World Food Program reported they had given at least some food, mostly 55 pound bags of rice, to over a million people. The UN acknowledges that it still needs to reach another one million people.  The 55 pounds of rice are expected to provide a two week food ration for a family.  Beans and cooking oil are scheduled to come later.

The Associated Press reported that people in Haiti at small protests were holding up banners reading “Help us, we’re starving.”

Over a million people are displaced.  About 10,000 families are in tents, the rest are living under sheets, blankets and tarps.

One of the people living under a sheet is a brand new mother with her one day old baby.  The New York Times reports that Rosalie Antoine, 33, and her one day old baby were living in a neighbor’s yard with puppies and chickens under a sheet in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port au Prince.

Haiti and the United Nations estimate 250,000 children under the age of 7 are living in temporary housing.  Most need vaccinations.

Flavia Cherry, of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, this week witnessed a pregnant double amputee give birth on the ground in one of the tent camps without any medical assistance at all.  “This poor mother had nothing, no milk, no clothing for the baby, nothing!”

Even people who can afford to purchase food are having a difficult time.  A 55 pound bag of rice costs 40 percent more today than it did before the earthquake.  Dr.  Louise Ivers, a Partners in Health physician in Port au Prince, reports a 25 kg (55 pounds) bag of rice that sold for $30 US dollars (1,207 Haitian Gourdes) before the quake, now costs $42 US dollars (1,690 Haitian Gourdes).

The World Food Program reports prices are still rising and people outside the earthquake zone are having difficulty meeting their basic food needs. twenty three days after the quake. 

Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He can be reached at: duprestars@yahoo.com.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hell in Haiti

A story from an Australian woman working in Haiti

PHOTO: Alison Thompson

Dear Friends:

What is happening in Haiti is truly exposing the clandestine relationship between international aid agencies and western powers.  After so many weeks of raising billions of dollars, the most basic relief is barely trickling down to the people who need it most.  It is like they want to see Haitians who are already on their knees, fall flat on their backs.  The email from Alison gives an accurate picture of the situation and it had to take a celebrity from Hollywood to release the bottleneck.  International aid agencies have so much experience in dealing with disasters and there is no excuse for what is happening in Haiti.

Something needs to be done urgently before the rainy season, because more people will die in those camps which are only covered by bed sheets.  I am especially concerned about the children and those who are already sick, in those camps.  There is so much land in areas that have not been affected by the earhquake.  If there was genuine goodwill, they would have used some of that money (by now) to begin moving people to more decent shelter on the outskirts and in the suburbs.

It is unbearable to see what is happening.

Regards,

Flavia Cherry
------------------------------------------------

Australia Day Honours: Haiti worker is honoured

BY MONICA HEARY
26 Jan, 2010 11:34 AM

IN THE middle of the rubble and human misery of Haiti there could be a little pocket of celebration when Cronulla aid worker Alison Thompson officially receives her Order of Australia Medal (OAM).

The medal is for the former teacher's humanitarian aid work, particularly in the Peraliya region of Sri Lanka, in the post-tsunami trauma of late 2004.

Now her proud parents are understandably worried about their daughter's presence in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

"All our children are free spirits, and we pray for her every day,'' father Keith Thompson said.

In Haiti Ms Thompson is working hand-in-hand with actor Sean Penn, whom she met as a result of her directing a documentary, The Third Wave, about Sri Lanka post-tsunami.

In a letter to her parents from Haiti this week she says: "Dante would describe it as hell here. There is no food and water and hundreds are dying daily.

"The other day I assisted with an amputation with no pain killers, holding down a young boy while they used a saw to cut his leg off .''

Ms Thompson has continued living in Sri Lanka for the past five years, where she has been working in a community tsunami early-warning centre, which she founded. The centre is the only one in Sri Lanka, and setting it up was a continuation of her assistance to the country. She has also helped rebuild a village, start a medical centre, 80 businesses, and a school.


_____________________________________________
via PACWIN

Email from Alison Thompson sent to her parents in Sutherland Shire (Sydney) on 24 January 2010.

Subject: Hell in Haiti

Hi mum and dad - I won't be around when they announce my award on January 26th.   I am with Sean Penn, diana jenkins, Oscar and 15 doctors embedded in the 82 airbourne ( USA)   Dante would describe it as hell here.  There is no food and wAter and hundreds dying daily. The aid is all bottlenecked and not reaching here . The other day i assisted with amputation ( holding them down) while they used a saw to cut a young boys leg off with no pain killers. Today I went with a strike force and army patrol in hummers into the streets and walked 5 miles through the camps set up on every street corner ..sewage and bodies stench is everywhere. As i attend to a patient 30 people crowd around me and it's hard to breath.  I nearly fainted today as the sewage smell went straight down my throat. I went white and dizzy but couldn't sit down as sewage is running through the streets. There is much infection and it feels like the job is too big. No antibiotics anywhere.

Good news, today our new york doctors evacuated 18 patients with spinal injuries out to miami and we're all so excited. Our mash unit is in the 82 air base overlooking a refugee camp of over 50000 people. The refugees start singing Christian songs at 4 am and line up for food until the army hands it out at 8 am ( thats if there is any food) On the first night I was in the nearby jungle camping under the stars with my team and woke up to the beautiful music drawing me to them. I thought it was a church and we went to find it and came across the 82 airbourne camp and the refugee camp.( that's how we ended up here) as it wasn't safe to stay where we were even though we had our own security force.

We are totally self suffient with food gas and medicines and have a private donor (Diana Jenkins who was a refugee in camps in Bosnia as a child - her family died of starvation in the camps. ) Sean Penn is here purely as a volunteer and is cutting through bureaucracy to get aid moving and food water and medicines to the people. There is no agenda but to save lives. Helicopters fly over head and it feels like vietnam. That night 50,000 people sung me to sleep and they sing every night for the world to save them. There is always hope but she's not here right now.

Alison xxx

My writing is a mess as it's on iPhone and keeps changing my words and the generator is on for a few hours but I know it's important to tell the world. Please send to any press who may call or family and friends.

And for those who want to read more about Alison and her award, here's an article from the St George & Sutherland Leader:

http://www.theleader.com.au/news/local/news/general/australia-day-honours-haiti-worker-is-honoured/1734194.aspx

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Petition from the Haitian Youth Ambassadors to the CARICOM Heads of Government Special Summit on Youth, Paramaribo 2010

This petition was presented at the CARICOM Heads of Government Special Summit on Youth, Paramaribo 2010. Special permission has been given to the Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC) to circulate in an effort to raise the consciousness of our Barbadian and Caribbean youth to the plight of our brothers and sisters in Haiti and to do our utmost in whatever ways we can to make their dreams and aspirations a reality even as we make our own a reality.

Sincerely
Jason K.A Francis
President
BYDC
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RECOVERY RELIEF EFFORT TO SUPPORT YOUTH DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TERTIARY EDUCATION AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT IN HAITI AFTER JANUARY 12TH EARTHQUAKE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CARICOM MEMBERS
_______________________________________________________
A petition of CARICOM YOUTH AMBASSADORS FROM HAITI

Addressed to: CARICOM COMMISSION ON YOUTH DEVELOPMENT

WE THE UNDERSIGNED WOULD LIKE TO BRING YOUR ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING PROBLEM, WITH RECOMMENDATIONS:
_______________________________________

Good afternoon,

I wish to speak on the behalf of my brothers and sisters in Haiti who are desperate for almost 3 weeks. Those youths that woke up the morning of January 12 with a bunch of energy, vibes that were sharing with others, and had hopes that tomorrow will have been better! Those same youths, the one who survived obviously, were standing in the middle of a street at 5PM without any hope!
This is an appeal that the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors of Haiti; current and former are making on behalf of our peers.

Dear Heads
The January 12 earthquake left thousands of students without schools, universities, and teachers in Port-au-Prince and around Haiti. Current efforts are focusing on providing food, water, and shelter; but in the coming months and years, the most pressing issue will become the lack of qualified human resources to rebuild Haitian society, which will result from the generations of displaced students unable to access quality education during and following the crisis. The demand for quality education is, and will continue to be, very critical. In this time of crisis, HAITI needs the support of its partners, including members of the CARICOM community, to continue providing education to its current students to avoid creating a potentially detrimental gap in qualified human resources.

Haiti has little capacity and few facilities to offer tertiary education, and this disaster has further weakened the tertiary education system. The State University of Haiti has around 23,000 students; each year 18,000 youth seek attendance at an undergraduate school, but only 3000 are admitted. For example, the School for Nursing and the School of Human Sciences collapsed, and the other buildings are cracked. Most likely, the rescued students will lose the academic year, and the country will suffer from a lack of qualified personnel during the recovery and reconstruction periods following the immediate response.
As acting CARICOM Youth Ambassadors and with the support of the former ones, we appeal to the CARICOM Community to urge the Heads of Government to offer education support to Haiti in this humanitarian crisis.

First, we request that CARICOM dedicate money for 20 scholarships per year for the next five years (starting in Fall 2010) for Haitian students to attend the University of West Indies (UWI). In addition, we hope that UWI will be more flexible in enrolling Haitian students during this special disaster relief effort.

Second, we urge CARICOM to develop a mechanism that will help youth in Haiti access funding to develop businesses, for instance, through the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), while receiving support and mentoring from the State University of Haiti and the private sector.

Thank you for your attention.

________________________________________

AGREED UPON BY THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE:

1. Isnel PIERREVAL / former CYA for HAITI / valisnel@yahoo.fr
2. Frantz SEIDE / former CYA for HAITI/ fhseide@yahoo.fr
3. Gyliane Anne-Leticia CADET/ CYA for HAITI/annothe@yahoo.fr

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haiti from The Front Line


Sharing some correspondence from Haiti - ROK

By Flavia Cherry

It is good to see that some efforts are being made to reach women in desperate need, but those of us on the ground are yet to see this happen in many of the areas where there is desperate need for food and relief. AID agencies MUST find a more humane way to reach out to the women and children who are most vulnerable and desperate. I know that the need is great, there is no excuse for what is the reality on the ground here in Haiti as Caribbean citizens offered help and many have even been denied entry. It is obvious that the aid agencies, (well intentioned as they may be) are unable to handle the scale of the problem here in Haiti. So why are they not being inclusive and involving more Haitian and Caribbean institutions in the relief and recovery efforts? Something is very wrong about the picture here in Haiti because while international agencies are dropping the ball in an attempt to monopolize aid efforts, Haitians are dying. Apart from lines for women, there is an urgent need for volunteers to go into the camps to reach women, children, disabled and elderly people who are unable to move.

It is a disgrace for so much money to be circling around to all kinds of aid groups and every single day I see so many people hungry, desperate. This situation is simply not acceptable. There are women in camps who have not had anything to eat for days. There are many available Haitians who are willing to assist as volunteers to get the aid to those who need it and CARICOM was willing to send help, but something seems to be really wrong. Why are Caribbean Goernments not allowed to play a more pivotal role, especially as there are many CARICOM citizens and regional security officers who speak creole and would be able to communicate better with the people of Haiti.

What I see on the ground is lots of big fancy air conditioned vehicles moving up and down with foreigners, creating more dust and pollution on the roads. Thousands of military officers everywhere, heavily armed like they are in some kind of battle zone. The girl guides and boy scouts of Haiti are also out in their uniforms, but unlike the army of troops, they are up and about, assisting in many ways. I saw of group of the boy scouts and girl guides directing traffic today, Sunday!

From the very beginning, I have been asking why aid agencies did not arrange separate lines for women, children and disabled people. It is obvious that if you leave people hungry for 5 to 8 days without food, they will be desperate and when food finally arrives, it will be survival of the fittest. The international agencies allowed confusion to reign supreme for more than two weeks while sensational and racist media people were merrily portraying images of hungry people fighting for food. At least now that they have suddenly realized the need for separate lines, I hope that this happens at every single distribution point, because as I am writing this email, that certainly is NOT the case.

I would like to share two separate events which I witnessed yesterday.

The first one is what I call a miracle birth. A young lay who had both legs amputated delivered a healthy baby on the ground, under a bed sheet. Not only were both legs amputated, but she had bandages all over her hips. Because of her condition, this expectant mother should never have been left out there on the streets at that advanced stage of her pregnancy because the chances of having a normal delivery in her physical condition were very slim. At the time of the delivery, people were everywhere, men, women, children, all huddled together under those sheets, for shelter from the sun. If there were complications, both mother and baby could very easily have passed, as no one in the camp had any transport or means of getting the mother to a medical facility. Other mothers were there with their newborns. This poor mother had nothing, no milk, no clothing for the baby, nothing! A doctor eventually came, but the mother was left there, with her baby, so we brought milk and supplies, including a sleeping bag. I know these are not normal times, but it is exactly for this reason, international aid agencies should be more inclusive and engage all those who are willing and capable of providing support.

The second incident happened in the heart of Port Au Prince yesterday where the largest number of people are living under the most inhumane conditions. I was taking pictures, when suddenly everyone started to run towards the Palace gates. I stood on top of a vehicle and realized that it was President Preval who had ventured onto the lawn and people starting shouting out to him, saying that they were hungry. President Preval came to the fence and hundreds of people kept running towards the fence. Many of them were shouting ¨Lavalas, Aristide, Lavalas, Aristide¨. Several others were asking President Preval why he had not addressed his people and told them what was happening. One woman put it this way: (I have not had anything to eat for four days and no one is hearing anything from the President, we have no idea what our Government is doing). I am using brackets because I cannot find quotation marks on this french keyboard.

President Preval spoke to those who were closest to the fence, but the large number of people who were pushing and shoving to get a glimpse of him, obviously heard nothing. At least I got a picture of the whole scene, including President Preval behind the fence with hundreds of people right next to him on the other side. Something about that scene convinced me even more, that there is really no need for such a heavy military presence in Haiti. What Haiti needs is an army of medical, civilian and specialist volunteers who will work with the people of Haiti to rebuild their nation - not a heavily armed military of more than 50,000 standing guard over them.

Regards,

Flavia

PS: I must express appreciation for the many volunteers from various countries who are giving very genuine assistance to the people of Haiti, but my comments remain relevant because of the reality on the ground

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Canadians Working with NGOs in Haiti

26 January 2010


Families and Friends of ATHABASKAN


A FEW WORDS FROM OFF THE COAST OF HAITI

Good day to you all. As I pen these words we have many of the crew ashore providing aid and assistance to the people of Haiti. I want to assure you that the Canadian Forces, indeed all of Canada, are pitching in together to provide some relief to the Haitians in their time of need. I am sure that all of you are aware of these efforts from the news reports so I will confine myself to the spectacular contributions of your loved ones here in ATH. We are currently patrolling about 3-5 miles off the coast of a town called Leogane; it is west of the capital city of Port au Prince. It is from here that we send, on average, about 50 people ashore each day to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. I will provide more details on what we are doing a little further on.

Leogane is one of the worst hit areas and is one of the focal efforts of Canadian humanitarian assistance. Leogane was very close to the epi-centre of the earthquake and has suffered unbelievable destruction. I would assess (please note that I am not a structural engineer and this is a personal observation) that up to 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed. Those that remain are largely single level homes that were either very well built or had a “flexible” structure. Two story homes generally “pancaked”: the first floor gave way, unable to take the load of the second floor during the shaking. I would say that most of the 130,000 (approximately) residents of the city are now homeless and have moved to tent cities or are living in their yards and streets. It is a very sobering sight. Because of the many aftershocks, some of which would qualify as earthquakes themselves, the people are reluctant to move back into their homes that have received less damage. I don’t blame them and in the same situation would do the same thing. Water has been scarce, food limited and medical care facilities were destroyed. We are helping with temporary shelter, water and medical support. Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have spooled up to provide medical, food/water and shelter relief. The Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen are helping these NGOs as much as possible.

ATHABASKAN has done, and is doing, a fantastic job down here and I am, as you are, very proud of our accomplishments. Although some times it seems so little in an area where the need is so great, I am glad that we are here. On the 13th of Jan we all came to work in Halifax thinking that the ship was in a work period and that shoveling snow was our greatest concern. A short 36 hours later we were at sea heading south at speed. I cannot thank you enough for your support to make this happen, especially those families of sailors from other ships that joined ATH to fill critical shortages. Not knowing exactly what the situation would be like, we planned for the worst, training people and designing humanitarian assistance teams on the way. On that first day when we went ashore it was clear that we had prepared well. I am relieved that we did not have to deal with the deceased victims of the tragedy as for the most part, that task had been completed. We were able to set our minds and efforts to providing help, comfort and medical care to the survivors.

One of the first jobs that we took on was the set-up of the Canadian Medical Assistance Team camp. Located close to the centre of Leogane, this team of doctors from Canada has treated well over a thousand of Haitians since we arrived. In addition to setting up the facility itself, we helped process patients using our casualty clearing teams; carried patients to and from the treatment tents; and, our medical teams – Doctor, Physicians Assistant and Medical Assistants - have been treating patients alongside the CMAT doctors. CMAT estimates that with our help they are able to treat twice the number of patients that would normally be possible. There have been all manner of operations done in this tent facility from setting of fractures to amputations. Our sailors, especially those who speak French, have proved invaluable in providing comfort and care to patients. On a brighter note, as has been in the press over the last day or two, two ATHABs helped bring a newborn into the world. An excerpt from our daily report:

A Babies Tale (23 Jan 10) 
Two members of ATH assisted in the delivery of a baby while working with CMAT. The event took place in a makeshift surgical tent on an army cot in what used to be school playground. OS Jean-Francois Cloutier-Joly was on the field translating when someone asked him for help delivering the child. Lt(N) Kate Wyand was asked to provide assistance to the doctor and provide some privacy for the young mother to be. Although there were complications, the mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy. OS Cloutier-Joly, a Haitian orphan himself, held this tiny miracle in his arms and fed him sugar water. Lt(N) Wyand asked a young Haitian translator if he knew the name of the newborn. He informed her that Haitians typically wait seven days before naming a baby in case the child does not survive. Lt(N) Wyand’s words: “a sobering response and a quick reminder of where we are.”

We have also been providing security to the CMAT camp during the day. Let me assure you that the Haitian people have been very orderly and calm throughout this tragedy. Line-ups for treatment have been long and they have been patient and brave, considering the seriousness of some of the injuries. The need for security has not as yet been called for but is a reasonable precaution on my part to ensure the safety of our personnel should things change.

We are working with two orphanages to help them get back on their feet. The first one cares for about 45 kids and the couple in charge is a husband and wife - she is Canadian from Quebec City and he from California. They have a reasonable supply of food having just received a shipment from the States and we are giving them a steady supply of clean fresh water until their purification system is repaired. We built a shelter for the kids and temporary toilet facilities. Their house is still standing but has significant cracks that make it dangerous, especially with the aftershocks. They were lucky in that everyone survived the earthquake but it broke my heart to see those kids and I don’t mind saying that I shed a tear watching our sailors playing with them amid the destruction that was their home. We just took on a second orphanage with 80 kids and we are working with Crisis International to provide some temporary shelter. Our sailors are working in the heat to build a wooden frame and tarp building that will get the kids off the ground and out of the brutal heat. Crisis International is providing the materials and food and water to this mission.

We have also gone out into the community to seek areas in which we can help – we have fixed solar panels, got generators running and restored water purification systems. Sailors have great skills that they have learned both through the Navy and from their hobbies and pastimes. All are in demand and being put to good use.

One of the biggest assets that we have is the helicopter. It has flown everyday, landing in airports, clearings and farmers fields to move people and materials where they are most needed. We moved most of the DART medical equipment from the capital to a neighboring city, many soldiers to Leogane, and loads of supplies all over the region. We even flew two critically injured people to the US hospital ship, Comfort, who is operating a floating hospital just offshore. The aircrew is flying 8 -10 hours a day and the aircraft never goes anywhere empty. The technicians and landing crew are working in 30 to 40 degree weather to make this happen!

Here onboard, those who are not ashore are working double time to support the teams and keep the ship running. I estimate that it takes just as many people to launch and load the boats as go ashore. The engineering spaces have been as hot as 50 degrees and guys have been down there keeping our water making at 100 percent when the tools are too hot to hold. Everyone is doing their part. I am trying to make sure that over the period that while we are here helping Haitians, everyone who wants to get ashore to help will have that opportunity.

I know that this has been a long letter, but I wanted to let you know personally what a great job your loved ones are doing here. The pride that I feel for their accomplishments is immeasurable and moves me greatly. We were one of the first military organizations to get ashore and make an immediate improvement in the conditions ashore. While we cannot build them new homes, we can help with medical care, water and temporary shelter. I have taken the liberty of modifying the ATHABASKAN motto: We Fight (and Help) as One.

Peter Crain
Commander
Commanding Officer
HMCS ATHABASKAN

“We Fight (and Help) As One”
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