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.

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