“We cannot forget about Haiti once again,” says UNICEF, which assesses “urgent” needs on the ground.
Life stood still for a few seconds in Haiti on August 14. An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale shook part of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, leaving more than 2,000 dead and again causing a “nightmare” that, as humanitarian organizations recall, will not be solved without international aid. .
“I felt the tremor and ran because I did not understand what was happening,” says Germine, 10, who gives voice to the 540,000 children who suffered the consequences of the tremors in some way. When she had not yet left the house, debris was already beginning to fall on her and she was unable to get up from it until her mother returned from the market, when she located her with various traumas.
Her testimony, collected by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), serves to personalize the balance of a tragedy that has left approximately 1.2 million victims. The organization estimates that 650,000 people need humanitarian aid, 260,000 of them children, and emphasizes that it is “urgent” to alleviate basic needs, starting with having a roof to sleep on.
Juan Haro, a UNICEF spokesperson, has toured some of the affected areas and testifies to this. “The first thing they ask of us is a tarp, something to sleep under,” he explains, in an interview with Europa Press in which he recalls that the region is in the middle of hurricane season – cyclone ‘Grace’ wreaked havoc in areas that they had already suffered the earthquake.
Haro has seen a country in ruins, with “devastated towns on the left and right of the road”, and that there are still areas that remain practically inaccessible. Contrary to what happened in the 2010 earthquake, when more than 300,000 people died, this time the tremors hit mainly rural and dispersed areas.
“Yesterday we met a mother who had lost her 18-month-old child because the house had fallen on her,” how much Haro, who has seen in the first person “the look of traumatized, depressed people”, so they have lived and what may be to come.
The outlook is “sad”, almost “apocalyptic”, but humanitarian agencies have been launched to attend not only to those who have lost everything – there are some 50,000 houses completely destroyed – but also to tackle emergencies that can come. “The needs are enormous and they are more than they seem”, emphasizes the spokesman.
Diseases such as cholera, malaria or diarrhea are recurrent in this type of context, especially when “it continues to rain every two or three days”, but Hurtado emphasizes that there are hospitals and schools with serious damage or directly destroyed. UNICEF is working to distribute supplies and basic medical equipment, as well as to carry out an “evaluation against the clock” of the educational infrastructures before the theoretical start of the school year.
Insecurity, which was rampant before the emergency, also threatens to increase, and children left out of the education system could fall into the hands of gangs. In fact, Haro explains that some of these groups control the roads that humanitarian aid needs to pass through to the damaged areas.
EMERGENCY ON EMERGENCY
Haiti’s recent history revolves around need and tragedy. The UN estimates that 4.4 million citizens, almost 40 percent of the population, suffer from food insecurity and 217,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition, and the assassination in July of the president, Jovenel Moise, does not contribute to the political situation. not even a minimum of stability.
Haro praises the “strength and resilience” of a population that “has set out with hands and shovels to remove rocks”, in an attempt to “start over and try to get up from this nightmare.” However, at the same time he recognizes that “strength has a limit and human dignity also has a limit”.
UNICEF had initially requested $ 15 million to meet urgent needs, but this Friday raised the figure to $ 73.3 million (€ 61.7 million). For now, you have received less than 1 percent of this amount.
Haro admits that no one is “prepared” for scenarios like Haiti, despite the fact that in this country there is already previous experience in responding to earthquakes and humanitarian agencies are especially mobilized. For this reason, he asks “that people continue to help”, since “more is needed”, with a clear message to the international community.
In this sense, it recognizes that the Taliban advance in Afghanistan “is forgetting the tragedy of Haiti”, further away from the political and media focus. Not surprisingly, the earthquake occurred just one day before the Taliban seized control of Kabul and began the massive wave of international evacuations from the airport in the Afghan capital.
Now that “all eyes” seem to be on Afghanistan, UNICEF insists that Haitian reconstruction “will not come in a matter of weeks or months, it will take years.” “We cannot forget about Haiti once again,” warns his spokeswoman.