Islamic Relief aid worker, Moadh Kheriji is part of the Emergency Response Team in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and describes his first impressions of the devastated city.
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 and the Islamic Relief team is trying 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 is a welcome contrast to the tragedies I have witnessed, and a reminder that somehow, even amidst all this devastation, there is always something to give us hope.
Please donate now to support the work of Islamic Relief, who are working to help the devastated people of Haiti in their time of need.