Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We Need Help

By Crystal Wells

This is a phrase I have seen over and over again during my time in Haiti. It is spray-painted red on crumbled walls. It appears on little signs jutting into the street outside camps and homes. I have seen it written in English, Spanish, French, and Creole. Some list specific needs, like food, water, and shelter.

But wherever it is written, “we need help” is like a small beacon of hope that someone, anyone, will come with assistance – that those in need will not be forgotten.

One month has passed since the 7.0-earthquake hit Haiti and millions are still in need of food and water, shelter and medical treatment. Thousands live in makeshift camps, with four, five, or six family members huddled beneath tattered sheets held up by sticks. There is little food, little access to clean water, and “we need help” will likely take on an even greater, perhaps more desperate meaning, as time passes.

You can already see this happening. Along the road to Petit Goave, a coastal area roughly two hours west of Port-au-Prince, roadblocks made of rocks and sticks now accompany the signs pleading for help outside the camps. Some of the roadblocks are discrete and easy to bypass, an attention-grabber more than a serious obstacle, but others quite literally block the road or, even worse, could demolish a vehicle.

We ran into one of these roadblocks while visiting one our clinics in Petit Goave at a remote camp on the top of a hill above the sea. The nearby camp had taken piles of rocks to make the road completely impassable and right as we stopped, a crowd quickly gathered around our car, protesting that relief had not come. We visited their camp and, like so many in Haiti, they had barely any food, completely inadequate shelter, and little access to clean water.

Our group heard their needs, told them of our clinic just up the road and our plans to build water and sanitation systems in the area, and we were soon on our way, the rocks moved to the side by the same hands who put them there.

But this is happening all over Haiti, people who have lost everything and have nowhere to turn but to broadcast their suffering with spray paint, cardboard, or rocks in the hope that someone will hear them.

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