Monday, February 8, 2010

haiti update - february 7, 2010

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1,2

Hi! This week we saw the positives and the negatives of the large humanitarian aid process that is happening here in Haiti. All week long, Delmas 31 was blocked by US military, UN military and Haitian police personnel to protect the distribution center located at International Child Care. World Vision is the large NGO responsible for distributing the food aid in our area. This past week I noticed that the women carrying the food aid were all heading up to Delmas 33 and I didn’t notice anyone heading back through the Delmas 31 area. On Wednesday we were waiting for someone near the mayor’s office, which is located on Delmas 31, and several people came up to us to ask about where the yellow cards could be obtained to qualify for the distribution point. We didn’t know but we told them that we would find out. Some people were waiting at the gates of the mayor’s office as they thought that mayor’s personnel would hand them out. People were telling me that the cards weren’t being distributed fairly with some people being given 4 or 5 at a time. People were saying that cards were being sold.
In the Haitian news we read that there was a small protest near the office of the mayor of Petionville on Wednesday and that the people were complaining that the mayor of Petionville was withholding or selling the food aid. A portion of the food aid is being sold on the black market and is noticed being sold by food vendors on the streets near food distribution points. On Friday morning we were driving through Croix des Bouquets and traffic was slowed to a standstill. Many transport trucks are being driven with humanitarian aid from the Dominican Republic. The trucks have a banner hanging at the front, which identifies the aid group sending in the aid (Unicef, Red Cross, Save the Children, Ayuda) and many more organizations. The people of Croix des Bouquets were massed along the side of the road and a Unicef truck approached. The container was open at the top and was closed with a tarpaulin and rope. The people pounced at this opportunity. A dozen men climbed to the top of the truck while it was stuck in traffic and removed the rope and folded back the tarp. Soon cases of water and food were flung down from the top and the feeding frenzy began. Men, women and children all ran to pick up everything. There was a UN vehicle with 6 soldiers from Nepal on board all dressed in their battle uniforms and they just sat there looking around. They didn’t even notice a container was being looted a couple of vehicles back. I got angry and yelled at them to do their job and pointed to the truck being looted and they just looked blankly ahead and drove on. The poor Haitian police who came on the scene had to deal with around 200 looters by themselves. The policemen raised their shotguns and fired into the air right next to my window. The spent casings almost bounced off my shoulder. Some of the looters ran and the men who were in the truck ducked down into the container. They popped back up and the police fired a couple of more rounds into the air. These guys looked like a bunch of jack-in-the-boxes. We kept on driving and when we reached the Love a Child mission in Fond Parisien we saw US military personnel there and complained to them that a security corridor should be set up by them to protect the humanitarian aid coming in from the Dominican border through to Port-au-Prince and told them that the UN didn’t do anything to control the situation. A couple of hours later when we were in traffic in Port-au-Prince by the airport we noticed 2 large trucks filled with UN soldiers from Nepal. They were dressed differently. Now they had riot gear uniforms on and were heading back to the Croix des Bouquets direction. One group of about 6 soldiers was on foot walking in their riot gear. Maybe these were the same 6 guys who earlier didn’t do anything!
On Saturday morning we were driving in the Tabarre region and saw a large crowd by the mayor’s office there. A group of about 50 men ran down the street chanting, “They have food and won’t give us any” over and over. There were around 300 people on both sides of the street in front of the mayor’s office and we stopped to talk with the people. The people excitedly said that the mayor has food and won’t give it to the people. Men were complaining that they needed food too. The people were saying that food is given to friends and contacts of the mayor’s people only. A couple of people from the mayor’s office told me that this wasn’t true and that they distribute whatever they receive.
We spoke with US military on Delmas 31 Saturday as well, and they let us advance to talk to the organizer from World Vision at the food distribution point. He told me that the coupon system is organized by World Vision in our area, the cards are being handed out by their staff at the refuge camps and that if people in the Delmas 31 area aren’t receiving cards than it is because they were not there when the workers passed through the refuge camps. This is one of the problems in the system. Mothers who leave the refuge camps to try to make a living for the family lose out on the opportunity to get a card. The guy from World Vision also told us to contact their office if we find a refuge site that is not receiving food coupons. He also told us to contact World Food Program directly for food aid for ourselves.
Sunday there was a larger protest in Petionville and the same claims were being made against the mayor of Petionville. Pray for the humanitarian food aid channel. Our mission is small and we are “guppies” compared to the large NGO “whales” responsible for the food aid. Pray that the food gets to the people.
Tomorrow we can ramp up our efforts again with a team coming from Canada. This time my cousin Jim (Jeff’s brother) will be arriving through the Dominican Republic. A Christian Reformed missionary in the Dominican Republic is helping the team get into Haiti. The focus will be on fixing the earthquake damage to the property and also provide relief with medical care and support to the people in the refuge camps. Jeff and Tanya, Marlene and Teresa all had assistance too in getting into Haiti by people from the Dominican Republic when they made their recent visits to Haiti. We give the Lord thanks for those who help people get into Haiti.
We plan on continuing to sleep in our tents until the end of February. The USGS had warned of serious aftershocks occurring for a 30-day period and we want to be safe (and everyone is too scared to sleep in the house anyway).
President Preval spoke last week and asked schools to re-open in March. He said this I think before having all the facts of the earthquake damage. 90% of the schools in the Port-au-Prince area were destroyed or significantly damaged during the earthquake. The Education Ministry building itself was destroyed in the earthquake. The Brazilian government is donating $400,000 to UNESCO. UNESCO hopes to improve the secondary and higher education of 110,000 students. In figures they released upon inspection of 1,500 schools they found only 85 schools that escaped serious damage (which means only 5% of schools can function as is). We are going to try to offer a school program to the children remaining in our program in March. Pray we can find another teacher for the handicapped class and for all the students of Port-au-Prince.
People everywhere are saying that Preval has requested all the churches to hold “jen” (prayer) services on February 12, 13, 14. I spoke with Pastor Octave and he plans on starting his services at 6:00 am and continue through the day until 6:00 pm and continue like that for 3 days. Please join the people of Port-au-Prince in prayer for their city and nation of Haiti during these “jen” days.
There’s a lot going on. Another update will follow soon.
Karen Bultje, Coram Deo

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