Valentines Day in Camp Petit Troll
One month since the earthquake. This weekend President Preval gave the population 3 days off to fast and pray. The first concrete public announcement since the earthquake from the President. Haitians have been out in the street since Friday morning doing exactly that. Thanking God for His Divine Wisdom. Haitians talk about this one older woman who, in December, had tried to warn the population about the biggest catastrophe in the country’s history. The woman had knocked on everybody’s doors including TV and radio stations, as well as the President himself. She claimed to bring a message from God. She had no luck and was turned down most of the places she went. Now Haitians are saying that they ought to have listened to this lady. Because they did not believe her, God has punished them with the earthquake.
Our local staff asked for the weekend off, and all parents in the camp are out praying. Only the children are left in the camp.
We tried to convince the staff that we should continue working as we had our doctors from Norway here only a few more days and we should take advantage of that. But everybody wanted to leave for church, and so it was. Instead we took the medical team out on a outreach clinic up in the mountains. The road up to the place was long, steep and very very scary! We all went together in our new truck that we bought after the earthquake. The truck is excellent, but not exactly built for such roads. I was convinced we would end up at the end of the hill…But Edwin did well and drove us all the way up to the village! ( I walked down…). The truck is of great help for us to pick up our supplies at the border, and when we start constructing a new school, as well as reconstructing some of our families houses, we will be in great need for such a vehicule. To rent a truck cost 200 US a day. We figured this was an excellent investment for Project Haiti and are very happy with the deal.
The educational system in Haiti was already, before the earthquake, in bad shape. Post earthquake shows that 5000 schools are in ruins, 80 000 teachers without a job, one million children without a school to go to. The schools that were not damaged will start up again first of March. Petit Troll will also do so. All of our teachers have been coming to the camp to work with our children since the first week after the earthquake. We had an engineer from the Ecuadorian UN force check out our school and his conclusion is that the building is safe. We are so pleased to hear this! Next week we will have a meeting with all the parents preparing for the return to school.
The Ecuadorian engineer corps at MINUSTAH is building latrines for our camp. They are very positive and enthusiastic about helping out! We are very grateful!
The Ministry of Health has announced that they no longer want donations to Haiti in the form of baby milk formula. The reason is that they want to encourage breastfeeding. That is all well and done but there are hundreds and maybe thousands of orphaned babies in the country. A very frustrated owner of an orphanage tells us that due to this announcement all baby milk formula has been stopped from the US and other countries. Orphaned babies are literally dying because of this.
A couple of days ago ten of the teenage girls in the camp asked for a meeting with me and Edwin. In the meeting Erncia, 13 years old, was the designated speaker on behalf of the group. The girls wanted to apologize for not having understood the seriousness of the situation. That living together in a camp requires everybodies contribution including the young girls. They have now formed a committe and want to take on the task of making sure all the children in the camp are clean, that they all help keeping the camp clean and tidy, and watch out for each other. We were so happy and proud to discuss this with the girls! What a great initiative!
Together with the medical team we have had two meetings this week. The first with the teenage girls where we discussed issues of camp security, personal hygiene, shower and toilet arrangements and so on. We did the same with the mothers, and they all had interesting and constructive suggestions on how to make the camp secure, clean and healthy.
Actually, as we were talking, another aftershock came, and all the mothers run out screaming! The aftershock was a 4 on Richters scala, and 7 people who at the time had been trying to loot one of the major supermarkets, the Caribbean, now in total ruins, had to be rescued by the US military.
With the medical team, and well equipped with medical supplies from our friends from Study Away in DR, we have also been able to reach a number of patients in two other neighbourhoods, Lolo’s camp and in my old neighbourhood. Each nurse and doctor have their own translator so we able to make 4 posts. On average we are able to see more than 100 patients each time. Many children and adults suffer from malnutrition, worms, diarrea, headaches, stomac aches, trouble sleeping, skin rashes, scabies and so on. With the rainy season starting end of march beginning of April, things will be much much worse.
The security situation is fragile in Port au Prince. Imagine a city where more than 700 000 people are living in makeshift camps. People have lost everything. The police force is reduced with hundreds of police officers dead after the earthquake. People dont have an adress to their names. Police officers are nervous that some of the 4000 escapees from the national penitantiory might come after the officers that initially arrested them and get their revenge.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the security situation for girls and women is precaurious. In the darks nights, with tens and thousands of people crammed together, the chance of getting abused and raped has risen dramatically. Last week one of our girls was gang-raped outside of the camp. She is 13 years old. She has been a student at Petit Troll since she was 3 years old. A beautiful and shy young girl. She was ashamed to tell anybody but after two days a friend of hers told me. We are extremely frustrated and upset about this. We got her emergency contraception and a medical check up. We hope that she is not infected with an STD. On top of such a horrible ordeal, her mother beat up her daughter and told her she was responsible. I wanted to arrest the mother together with the men responsible for the rape. Rape was only criminalised in Haiti in 2005. Trying to bring perpetrators of rape to trial in Haiti was before the earthquake a nightmare. Today there is no point….
The US and Canada have now evacuated tens of thousands of their own citizens. Everybody wants to leave. The brain drain has been a constant problem in Haiti…I wonder who will stay after this…
I plead to all of you taking your time to read this. Haiti needs you. Please dont forget!
Ingvill Konradsen Ceide