I travelled to Port-au-Prince with a group of Haitians living in the US and the Dominican Republic.
Their common aim was to ensure that medical supplies were delivered to those who needed them. They also wanted to see if their relatives were safe.
Everyone has harrowing stories to tell. One young pregnant relative trapped by concrete gave birth to her child – they both perished.
Another told a story of a child who went back into the house to get a book and was killed by an aftershock.
Everywhere you look people are foraging amongst the rubble and twisted metal to find food and items to sell and re-use.
Existence in Haiti is fragile at the best of times. Most Haitian people live precariously making a living in the informal street economy. People sell everything from individual portions of cornflakes to sugar cane.
Many have seen their goods destroyed and have no way of generating income.
Those that have money cannot access it, and they cannot contact their relatives.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has been impoverished by colonial rule, slavery, the outrageous requirement to compensate former slave owners for the money they “lost”, US intervention, loan repayments and corrupt and incompetent rulers.
This situation is man-made.
Much anger is directed against the US, for the slow and inadequate rescue and aid response.
The general feeling is that this is Katrina all over again.
Carline Paul runs Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, a Miami educational charity for families and new immigrants.
She took volunteers with medical supplies direct to the Haitian people with the help of the Dominican government.
“We know the big bureaucracy has the bulk of the supplies and the logistical problems but we felt the people were in such dire need right now we needed to get the medical supplies direct to the people.”
“This is about poverty. It is day 11 and people are still dying.”