Haiti, Olomouc – Building debris, dead, lack of water, food and medical care, people sleeping in the streets… This is a picture of Haiti 10 years ago. On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 shortly before 5 P.M. local time, an island state in the Caribbean was hit by a devastating 7.0 Mw earthquake (equivalent to the power of 38 dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima). In just half a minute 250,000 people died, a million and a half others lost their homes. Shortly thereafter a cholera epidemic broke out. At that time, the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc helped in Haiti and is still active there. Current situation in Haiti is not peaceful, because of raging gangs. According to the UN there is a food crisis.

The Caritas will present the harsh but at the same time colourful life of Haitians with an exhibition of large-format photographs by Jiří Pasz at The ­Res­earch Library in Olomouc (February 3th – 28th). The exhibition will open on February 3th, 2020 at 5 P.M., a public lecture focused on life at Haiti will be held on February 19th, 2020 at 5 P.M. in the library.

10 years ago – ruins and chaos

The yard of Caritas Haiti is full of tents, workers are running around with papers and telephones. There are problems here with electricity, internet, telephone network, lack of diesel and impassability of the roads. Two workers of the Archdiocesan Charity Olomouc are helping there. “People lost everything in a minute. Survivors stayed outside their damaged dwellings for security reasons. They needed water, food, shelter and information. That is why in the first days and weeks we focused on donating water, food and hygiene packages, tarpaulins and tents. We received humanitarian aid in the first weeks from all over the world. It flew to a damaged airport in the capital, sailed by sea with Mexican warships, or arrived by land with a stream of trucks from the Dominican Republic,” said Martin Zamazal.

Photo: Martin Strouhal

There is chaos everywhere. People are dying because of injuries – some hospitals are damaged or destroyed, doctors and medical supplies are missing. There are 300,000 injured. The rainy season makes helping more complicated, roads are muddy, impassable. The earth is shaking again, people spend the night just outside. Later, to help the recovery of communities Caritas founded new long-term projects in Haiti, such as the restoration of agriculture or the construction of resilient roofs.

Present –raging gang and food crisis

Although Haiti was in the spotlight after the earthquake, accepting billions of dollars of financial aid, Haiti still belong between failed nations. Money was not been spent efficiently. There is poverty and corruption. People do not have enough food or fuel; some groups take justice into their hands. Protests against the corrupted government are growing violent. Because of the danger, Haitians closed schools in larger cities last year. “At the beginning of December, we reopened the school in Gonaïves, but only the students of seventh and eighth grades came. Parents were afraid of letting younger children go into the streets full of armed gangs,” said its director, Sister Margaret. The school will hopefully reopen during January 2020.

However, over 70 mothers with children come to the nutritional centre. They can get food and milk there. “They are happy to be somewhere together and feel safe,” Sister Margaret adds. The centre is particularly helpful now, in the time of food crisis.

Despite the situation, a sewing workshop is still operating at Gonaïves. Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc sent to Haiti pedal sewing machines in a container in 2018. “In the novice class there are 12 mothers, which are learning to sew now. In the advanced class there are even 15 seamstresses, who have already received their diplomas and wait for the time to work in a nearby textile factory,” said Project coordinator in Haiti of Caritas, Lada Matyášová.

Czech donors sponsor food for children

“Thanks to our Child Sponsorship project children in schools have one hot meal per day. Many would not have had this opportunity at home even before the crisis. And it is even more important in these difficult days,” explains the coordinator.

The school and the nutrition centre in Gonaïves are supported by the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc. With the help of Czech donors, it helps Haitians to cope with the food crisis. The Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc also operates in Baie-de-Henne and Roche-à-Bateau. In these rural areas it is still quiet, schools are open.