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It’s like Mogadishu or Beirut during the height of conflict, says one veteran relief worker. Entire neighbourhoods reduced to rubble. Another compared the quake’s aftermath to the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which wiped out whole communities and claimed 230,000 lives in a dozen countries. The numbers in Haiti back up the comparison: 225,000 killed, 1.2 million left homeless. In Haiti, however, the disaster was concentrated on one island already dealing with chronic poverty, hurricanes and floods. Despite these facts, there is hope: the massive global response and the legendary Haitian toughness offer a foundation on which Haiti can rise again.

Moments of joy, amid the pain

Amid the ruin and their own sorrow, many volunteers said their work gave them a sense of purpose, even an occasional cause for joy. “I was working at the first-aid post when I received a call from the team leader,” recounts 25-year-old Jude Celoge, with the Haitian National Red Cross Society . “He told me: ‘Jude, you need to get over to Carrefour-Feuilles right away. There’s a girl in the wreckage who's still alive.’ “I was there in five minutes. Local residents were there with hammers, saws, chisels and shovels. A Red Cross rescue worker had crawled in through a hole in the rubble and talked to the girl. She had been in the shower when the earthquake struck. She immediately gave us a number to call her family.” The young woman, 16-year-old Darlene Etienne, survived.
©REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz, courtesy


Rapid global response

The Haiti operation quickly became one of the largest, fastest and most complex responses to a natural disaster in Movement history. Within a month of the earthquake, more than 600 people representing 33 National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies were in Haiti delivering aid. By month’s end, 21 Emergency Response Units from 16 National Societies, staffed by 232 people, had been deployed. Above, Dominican Red Cross volunteer Joel Calazan Batista organizes tarpaulins for distribution in Port-au-Prince.
©Marko Kokic/ICR


Rapid global response

Led by the Haitian National Red Cross Society, Movement volunteers set up emergency hospitals, got basic healthcare functioning, and within weeks were treating 1,600 patients a day. Here, a Canadian Red Cross volunteer treats the broken leg of 12-year-old Guedline outside Port-au- Prince’s university hospital.
©Marko Kokic/ICRC

Silent suffering

The earthquake had a devastating effect on people who were already extremely vulnerable. Elderly people, for example, suffered tremendously under the shock and strain of post-quake upheaval. The man above, made homeless by the quake, sits in the former chapel of a home for the elderly in Port-au-Prince’s Delmas 2 district.
©Marko Kokic/ICRC

Unimaginable loss

Because the quake struck during peak business hours, many schools, government offices and shopping malls were full of people when buildings began to topple. At left, Roselord Oregene learns that her daughter Sefmi, 11, was killed by the quake while at school at Rue du Centre, Port-Au-Prince.
©Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross

Resilience among the ruins

Amid the suffering and pain, there were signs that life will go on. Often, it’s the children who remind us that after the grief, we will find hope and happiness. Here, children play football in a rubble-strewn square, the toppled Notre Dame Cathedral providing a sombre background.
©Marko Kokic/ICRC

Rebuilding, one brick at a time

The effort to rebuild Haiti will likely take decades and require a global commitment of labour, capital and political will. For many in Haiti, the rebuilding effort began with whatever bricks, iron bars or wood scraps could be found amid the rubble. It was a matter of immediate survival. This man carries cinder blocks from a destroyed church in Port-au-Prince.
©REUTERS/Carlos Barria, courtesy


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