Haiti: Initial Food Distribution Rushed to Quake Survivors

Those first few days in Haiti still stand out to me: Haitians covered in concrete dust, carrying friends to hospitals on doors busted off their hinges; the smeared ointment under their noses to ward off the smell that hung over the city. At night, many streets closed and people bedded down on the asphalt, wedged together like cigars in a box. When I asked people where they slept, the response was usually the same: “I sleep under the beautiful stars.” It was a romantic veneer on Dickensian conditions.

Haitians were in a daze; they didn’t know who to turn to. Spray painted signs went up pleading for help. Haitians stopped CRS employees on the street and begged for food and jobs. Local radio stations broadcast rumors about where food was being handed out.

CRS’ team in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, helped pick up the slack. A warehouse was obtained, volunteers organized, and tons of food purchased, stuff like beans and peanut butter and granola bars. The volunteers cranked up the music in the warehouse and raced to see who could pack food kits the fastest. Within hours, a convoy of trucks was rumbling to Haiti.

Not long after, mothers and fathers trotted away with a bucket of food; one less thing they had to worry about for a while.

Lane Hartill is CRS communications officer for western and central Africa reporting from Haiti

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