Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Earthquake : Islamic Relief Aid Worker's Diary #2

My colleague from Islamic Relief UK, Br. Moadh Keriji wrote again. Do read his latest blog entry and if you want to donate to help, you can visit our website:

19 January 2010

Yesterday I met Joanne, and I will never forget what she told me. Joanne is a chef by profession and she moved to Haiti from the US three months ago. I met her at a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince, where many displaced, homeless people have gathered to seek refuge.

In her arms was a newborn baby and as soon as she saw the Islamic Relief team she approached us hastily and asked if we had any clean water.

She needed to add clean water to the baby’s formula milk but could not find any. I asked her the baby’s name and she said she did not know. The baby’s mother had died before she could give her child a name.

Joanne told me the baby boy was born the day before the earthquake. Both mother and baby were found alive but the mother died later from her injuries.

Before dying, she asked Joanne to look after her baby. Now Joanne was desperate to feed the baby but did not know where she could find clean water.

I will never forget the look of desperation in her eyes. As a father of two young boys, I could feel her pain and anguish.

Although we did not have any clean water to distribute yesterday, the Islamic Relief team went back to the camp today with two huge water tankers.

Joanne and 200 families were given clean water, many of them for the first time in a week. With the water system in Port-au-Prince damaged by the earthquake, people have been forced to drink dirty, contaminated water.

This water is extremely dangerous as it can lead to many diseases, with babies and young children particularly at risk.

Islamic Relief is also planning to install around 40 water tanks in the city, and water tankers will go around twice a day to fill each tank. A single water tanker costs $100 (£65) here, and provides water to over 100 people.

One of the most pressing needs of the people after clean water and food is temporary shelter.

Most of the people of Port-au-Prince are spending their nights in the open because their homes have either been destroyed or are too unstable to enter.

They are using any materials they can get their hands on to create makeshift tents, like pieces of cloth tied to pieces of plastic.

Madame Emmanuel is one of the people I met living out in the open. She told me that her house had collapsed on top of her, her husband and her niece.

Fortunately, the collapsed wall around her left a little gap where she was able to remain safe, but trapped with her husband who is blind.

After spending a few hours under the rubble people from the neighbourhood heard her cries and came to their rescue. They had no rescue equipment but used hammers and hacksaws until they got her and her husband out to safety.

Unfortunately her niece was not so fortunate. 22-year-old Emily was taking a shower when the earthquake struck and as she went to put on her clothes the walls and ceiling collapsed, and she died instantly.

Over the next few days, Islamic Relief is planning to distribute secure, waterproof, tents to house over 5,000 people.

We promised Madame Emmanuel that we would do our best to provide her with temporary shelter as quickly as possible.

Each of these family tents costs £300 and will bring much-needed shelter to people who are spending their days and nights without a roof over their heads.

We really are in a race against time to provide the people of Haiti with food, water and shelter.

I am witnessing how they suffer every day and I hope our donors will give generously so we can help as many people as possible.

People like the Madam Emannuel, who lost everything she had, and the unnamed baby in Joanna’s arms, who has been born into this terrible tragedy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti Earthquake: Islamic Relief Aid Worker's Diary

My colleague from Islamic Relief UK, Br. Moadh Keriji wrote on his blog at IR UK website to share his experience on the ground helping the earthquake victims in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

Do read his account below and if you want to help, you can donate to Islamic Relief by clicking HERE.

18 January 2010

As we entered Port-au-Prince the first thing we saw was a long queue of young men. I was told they were trying to apply for jobs at the UN. Then as we continued into the city it seemed as though the whole of Port-au-Prince was out on the streets. I asked Michele, a local who had agreed to guide us, why this was. He said it was because the houses were unstable and people feared they would collapse.

Michele knew all too well how real and tragic this could be. His young brother and two of his cousins died when their house collapsed on them. The school where Michele taught English also collapsed, and many of his students died.

I wondered how many other tragic stories were buried under the rubble that surrounded us. Only the rooftops were visible on entire buildings that had been flattened, no doubt crushing their inhabitants.

Many of those who were fortunate enough to survive have been made homeless. They have either set up shelters near their houses or congregated in open spaces in a kind of a makeshift camp. These people have lost almost everything they had. In Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, people save up all their lives in order to build a house for their families. Rebuilding these homes will be a priority for aid agencies like Islamic Relief once the emergency phase is over.

For now, people are desperate for help to meet their most basic needs. As we evaluated the destruction we noticed the number of people around us started growing rapidly and then suddenly a fight broke out between a young man and woman. They seemed to be fighting over something, and then others began running away with items, seizing the opportunity to loot.

The challenges of working with a community in such desperate need has made the Islamic Relief team even more committed to deliver aid as quickly and effectively as possible. Many international aid agencies here are coordinating their efforts, most of them from the airport which has become a kind of base camp for agencies.

As we set up our tents for the night I spoke to a French rescue worker who told me he had rescued a baby girl today, four days after the earthquake. He found the girl beside her mother, who had been crushed under a pillar. The impact of the collapsing pillar seemed to have thrown the baby away from her mother, and miraculously saved the baby’s life.

This heart-warming story was a welcome contrast to the tragedies I have witnessed in Port-au-Prince today. Tomorrow we hope to finish our needs assessment and start distributing emergency supplies. I know it will be a long day, and it will be a very long time before we can rebuild some of what has been lost here.

15 January 2010

Landed in Santo Domingo. The plane was full of various aid agency workers from USA, Finland, Switzerland and many other countries. The UN is trying to coordinate the different charities efforts from the airport and Islamic Relief has been registered.
The security situation is deteriorating, particularly at night as people are becoming more desperate for their basic needs and there are reports of aid conveys being looted.

I’ve been told that there has been a huge response in UK to the appeal with the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), of which Islamic Relief is a member agency, raising millions. The people of Haiti are in desperate need for food, shelter, medicine and clean water. We are working hard to ensure that we respond as best as we can and we request your prayers and your continuing generous donations.

I haven’t slept for a whole day. I need to sleep. Tomorrow morning we are going to search ways in which we can safely access some of the worst affected areas.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Namanya memang Engineer!

Dr. Ashgar Ali Engineer

Beliau ada menulis tentang isu nama Allah di sini. Saya pernah bertemu beliau semasa mesyuarat Asian Muslim Network (AMAN) mengenai 'climate change' di Bangkok dua tahun lepas.

Saya tertarik dengan kata-katanya:

"I was told by my father who was a priest that it was the basic duty of a Muslim to establish peace on earth.I soon came to the conclusion that it was not religion but misuse of religion and politicising of religion, which was the main cause of communal violence."

~Asghar Ali Engineer~

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aku Ingin

oleh Prof.Dr.Sapardi Djoko Damono

Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana
dengan kata yang tak sempat diucapkan
kayu kepada api yang menjadikannya abu

Aku ingin mencintaimu dengan sederhana
dengan isyarat yang tak sempat disampaikan
awan kepada hujan yang menjadikannya tiada..

Nota: Puisi ini pertama kali didengar apabila tuan Harry Aveling mendeklamasinya melalui Youtube dan dicapai melalui Facebook Puan Taheera Rosheena Mohamed. Saya suka!