Dispatches from Haiti: The Rains Come Early
This is a continuing series on the devastation and reconstruction of Haiti. As the story fades from the front pages of newspapers and trending topics on Twitter, we will endeavor to provide a continuing look at what is happening on the ground. The rain fell a few nights ago for the first time. It started off slowly around 5 a.m., then came down hard. My first thought was for the countless thousands living in tent cities beneath ragged bed sheets. Even a light rain could wipe them out. And this one was just the preview of what will come.My translator arrived at the hotel about an hour later, soaked. "This is nothing, boss," he said. "In Haiti, it rains dogs and donkeys."Looking at the endless rubble, mile-long food lines, and families crouched under flimsy cloth and stick shelters, it is hard to imagine that Mother Nature could be cruel enough to send the rains early.They usually arrive in the spring, followed by the hurricane season from July and November. We pray the February storm is a fluke and not the first sign of an early wet season that would turn tent camps to swamps and complicate recovery efforts underway here.Beyond the emergency medicine still administered daily at the National Hospital and at mobile clinics by our volunteer doctors and nurses, our own work now comprises a small part of that recovery.The rains have yet to hit Petit Goave, a coastal area of about 80,000 people 40 miles west of Port-au-Prince, where International Medical Corps water and sanitation expert, John Akudago, is organizing latrines and clean water systems. Some of the first latrines will be in a place called Beatrice, where some 2,500 people have resettled in half a dozen camps scattered on the hillsides above the sea and Akudago worries about the rains."Sanitation is a big problem, especially in Port-au-Prince, and when it rains, the human waste will spread," Akudago explains. "I fear that there will be an outbreak of disease when the rainy season starts."Back in Port-au-Prince, families camped near a mobile clinic in the Carrefour area of the city where International Medical Corps provides care, were rebuilding makeshift tents wiped out by the storm. One young couple lined the perimeter of their tent with cement blocks, hoping that next time, they will keep out the water.In the same camp, another woman living with her daughter and grandchildren worried that the babies would fall sick in the wet and cold that comes with with the rains."We have no toiletries and it is also hard to stay clean," she said. As she spoke, she picked her smallest grandchild out of the mud.The rain is inevitable, but its first appearance in Port-au-Prince in mid-February could mean that it is coming early, giving very little time for the homeless to find relief before their next drubbing from Mother Nature.Communications Officer Crystal Wells is with International Medical Corps' Emergency Response teams in Haiti and reporting for GOOD on her experiences and the people she meets along the way.