Post-quake Haiti in mourning: funerals, aftershocks, chaos and loss


Two weeks after the deadly earthquake in Haiti finds the country in mourning. Funerals, aftershocks and a daily search for clean water, food and shelter are ongoing in the south western Les Cayes region.

Beth Carroll, who is Haiti’s head of programs for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) says there are funerals everywhere you go. It brings a sense of overwhelming grief when that many people pass away, she says.

Family members of at least two CRS staff are among the Magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

The earthquake disaster has piled another level of suffering on the already stressed population, Carroll says.

The stressors she is referring to concern the difficult political, economic and social crisis that has been making life in Haiti almost unbearable for the past two years.

Over 2,200 people died and another 12,000-plus were injured in the initial 14 August quake. In addition, government estimates say 130,000 homes were damaged, including 50,000 which were completely destroyed.

“It is very visible in the affected communities, where 90 percent of homes, schools and churches were flattened in the hot spots,” says Carroll.

“There is also significant damage which is less visible: a lot of water systems are damaged and no longer functioning, or the water is dirty and not usable.”

CRS staff have been headquartered under tarps at a parking lot near their operations center in Les Cayes because of damage to their offices.

Following the tragedy, CRS has focused on distributing emergency shelter and hygiene kits. They are working hand in hand with the Haiti government to help Haitians rebuild their lives at home and discourage them from relocating to tent cities or sleeping in the streets.

While CRS maintains a stockpile of emergency supplies in Haiti, additional resources have come from the U.S. military, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the United Nations and World Vision.

Les Cayes is Haiti’s third-largest city. Carroll says local hospitals and health clinics are doing the best they can with their available resources and are moving toward normalcy. They have also moved many patients to other hospitals away from the disaster area.

A major concern in the region is damage to schools and the effect this has on children. Children are already losing classroom time due to a number of factors: the pandemic, Haiti’s dysfunctional political situation and widespread food insecurity.

“We would really like to see how we can prevent a late start to the school year, and many schools aren’t going to be able to accept children,” Carroll says. “They really can’t afford to miss further class time.”

CRS is working closely with Les Cayes Catholic diocese and the regional office for Caritas Internationalis, which recently lost its regional director to COVID-19.

Caritas has “started a very rapid response program, and we are supporting them and doing training with them despite the upheaval of a new (Caritas regional) director, an earthquake and a recent tropical storm (Grace) — and yet they are still out there doing their project,” Carroll says.


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