On the ground in Port au PrinceFeatured, Haiti — By Bill Quigley on January 28, 2010 at 06:58
Hundreds of thousands of people are living and sleeping on the ground in Port au Prince. Many have no homes, their homes destroyed by the earthquake. I am sleeping on the ground as well – surrounded by nurses, doctors and humanitarian workers who sleep on the ground every night. The buildings that are not on the ground have big cracks in them and fallen sections so no one should be sleeping inside.
There are sheet cities everywhere. Not tent cities. Sheet cities.
Old people and babies and everyone else under sheets held up by ropes hooked onto branches pounded into the ground.
With the rainy season approaching, one of the emergency needs of Haitians is to get tents. I have seen hundreds of little red topped Coleman pup tents among the sheet shelters. There are tents in every space, from soccer fields and parks to actually in the streets. There is a field with dozens of majestic beige tents from Qatar marked Islamic Relief. But real tents are outnumbered by sheet shelters by a ratio of 100 to 1.
Rescues continue but the real emergency remains food, water, health care and shelter for millions.
Though helicopters thunder through the skies, actual relief of food and water and shelter remains mimimal to non-existent in most neighborhoods.
Haitians are helping Haitians. Young men have organized into teams to guard communities of homeless families. Women care for their own children as well as others now orphaned. Tens of thousands are missing and presumed dead.
The scenes of destruction boggle the mind. The scenes of homeless families, overwhelmingly little children, crush the heart.
But hope remains. Haitians say and pray that God must have a plan. Maybe Haiti will be rebuilt in a way that allows all Haitians to participate and have a chance at a dignified life with a home, a school, and a job.
One young Haitian man said, “One good sign is the solidarity of the world. Muslim doctors, Jewish doctors, Christian doctors all come to help us. We see children in Gaza collecting toys for Haitian children. It looks very bad right now, but this is a big opportunity for the world and Haiti to change and do good together.”Tags: disaster, earthquake, Haiti, Poverty
Author: Bill Quigley (26 Articles)
Bill Quigley currently on the ground in Haiti recording a diary for Race-Talk. He is the Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a national legal and educational organization dedicated to advancing and defending the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bill joined CCR on sabbatical from his position as law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. He has been an active public interest lawyer since 1977. He has served as counsel with a wide range of public interest organizations on issues including Katrina social justice issues, public housing, voting rights, death penalty, living wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights and civil disobedience. Bill has litigated numerous cases with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the Advancement Project, and with the ACLU of Louisiana, for which he served as General Counsel for over 15 years. Bill received the 2006 Camille Gravel Civil Pro Bono Award from the Federal Bar Association New Orleans Chapter. Bill received the 2006 Stanford Law School National Public Service Award and the 2006 National Lawyers Guild Ernie Goodman award. He has also been an active volunteer lawyer with School of the Americas Watch and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Bill is the author of Ending Poverty As We Know It: Guaranteeing A Right to A Job At A Living Wage (2003) and Storms Still Raging: Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice (2008). In 2003, he was named the Pope Paul VI National Teacher of Peace by Pax Christi USA and is the recipient of the 2004 SALT Teaching Award presented by the Society of American Law Teachers.
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