Monday, April 19, 2010


This page includes video, photo gallery and article.

showcases video footage of the actual earthquake, photographs from the field and the operations of two NGOs Global Grassroots  and Amurtel )  in the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake. 



- ARTICLE - by Bradley Rae
OVERVIEW: Our base camp was crammed in alongside the mountainous ruins of a five star hotel in Port-Au-Prince that had totally collapsed, killing 70 people. US soldiers guarded the site to prevent looting, as rescue teams burrowed deep into the rubble in search of those still missing. From the highest vista overlooking the city, where the hotel was perched, we ventured each day into the utter devastation below, travelling through the upturned streets and chaos of a fallen city as far as the epicenter 30 miles away.

In addition to the relief effort and UN operations, the article discusses the disastrous impact the approaching rainy season could have on the overcrowded tent 'cities' of Port-Au-Prince. The  seasonal flooding and the high potential threat of diseases spreading throughout the camps has relief teams scrambling for a solution. 


On January 12th, 2010, a mega earthquake rocked the core of Haiti, adding to the woes of a country already burdened by severe poverty, widespread crime and a government renown for its corruption. The capital, Port-Au-Prince, was devastated by the quake. Thousands upon thousands died within a matter of a minute, and many others thereafter (300 000 plus would be the final number of fatalities). The world’s leading nations quickly rallied unlike ever before, pouring record quantities of aid and money into the tiny Caribbean country that now lay in total ruins. 

And in the aftermath, the unthinkable began to unfold...

Local government response to the disaster was non-existent. President Preval went into hiding for the first week and police were nowhere to be seen for days. Riots broke out everywhere over food and water shortages, armed gangs looted at will, and an unrivaled army of humanitarians gallantly marched into the midst of it all without any co-ordination or unity whatsoever. Corpses littered the streets for over a week until they were transported to a mass grave site just outside the capital. All the while thousands of more corpses were left, and still remain, buried in the rubble, the smell of death blanketing all corners of the city that stands as a precarious skeleton compared to what it once was. US troops landed on the streets en force to establish order, and the UN, contending with the collapse of its headquarters in Port-Au-Prince and the death of 110 staff, gradually began to appear. After six days of silence, its forces spread like a ubiquitous wave of hope across the land, filling in the gaps as the US forces began their withdrawal in the weeks that followed.

Now in the third month after the earthquake, and with approximately 10 000 NGOs (non government organizations) active in the region, the relief effort has been a crucial and urgent inundation that has been seriously hampered by unfathomable conditions. Vital distribution of food, water and medical supplies are yet to reach the majority of people who remain utterly destitute, helpless, and totally disillusioned by the limited progress of the many who have come to save them. The reality of the destitution is ever present throughout the country, particularly from Port Au Prince to the epicenter of the quake 30 miles away. Anti UN graffiti is written on walls, as well are pleas for help to the outside world. And behind closed doors, tireless meetings continue in the UN and its subdivisions (ie World Food Program and World Health Organization) with NGOs and media packing the rooms in attendance.

Presently, there’s been little constructive organization of the masses beyond the endless tent cities or encampments that blotch the landscape. These encampments house anywhere from a 100 people up to 40000, and most are seriously lacking in sanitation. Efforts in moving them to more strategic locations are underway but the task is proving extraordinarily difficult with so many in desperate need of bare essentials and medical attention. Local and foreign medical teams are operating beyond their limit, as well are food and supply depots, with the destitute and injured standing in lines stretching for blocks around the city.

These people are going nowhere, at least not anytime soon, which gives rise to a whole different layer of problems as the skies darken and the rainy season approaches; for with the rain, comes the possibility of diseases spreading throughout the camps. If this happens, if such diseases as cholera, typhoid or dysentery take hold across the demolished city, where large groups of people are crammed in together amongst the rubble, it could prove truly devastating. Desperate work is in progress to clear the drainage systems of debris before the rains start, but it’s unlikely, if not futile, this undertaking.

Floodwater laden with vast amounts of garbage will hit the city like a tsunami of pollution descending from the surrounding mountains, meandering through the streets of Port-Au-Prince with the heavy rains expected come May. This happens every year.

The ex-Prime Minister of Haiti, Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis, spoke with noted dread, of the inevitability of such events in a recent interview with a US network. Add to this deluge the raw sewerage from the camps and the large number of decomposing bodies still beneath the ruins, and the situation becomes even more desperate and critical. As noted by Dr David Walton of Partners in Health, '...the rainy season and poor sanitary conditions will simply exacerbate the spread of Cholera... a 1000 fold.' And with the hurricane season on its way, the tent cities are further burdened by the serious threat of but a single severe storm hitting the country head-on. This could leave hundreds and thousands of people without shelter, totally unprotected in the raging elements when they have no where else to go. Most buildings that are still standing in Port-Au-Prince and surrounding areas are marred with giant cracks and are perilously unstable, and that’s in dry conditions. Add water to the mix, as in incessant downpours and monsoons, and many more buildings and houses are sure to tumble, taking any desperate enough to dare their interiors, with them. To walk the tent camps is to see quite obviously the problems that are certain to arise. And the time for preventative action is passing under the present system where the UN and NGOs are running the country, which is a huge problem in itself.

The UN and NGOs are faced with an unprecedented situation. They are not meant to run a country, to assume such responsibilities as rebuilding streets and sewerage canals and homes and schools and hospitals to near everything else in between. This is the role of government. President Preval argues in response to the broad criticism over his handling of the disaster, that his government was simply caught unaware, and with a fault line literally passing through the now fragmented presidential palace, one must concede to the impossibility of what his government is facing. The UN did much the same as Perval did when it closed its doors for the first week following the quake. It was simply overwhelmed, and unable to cope.

So it remains to be seen if the Haitian government can be comprehensively active in the hard months ahead. This will entail working collectively and creatively with foreign governments, the UN and the humanitarian army that have all rallied to overcome a seemingly impossible situation. To better the conditions of the Haitian population, and to manage the next crisis in the camps, requires meetings, expert testimony, countless details and procedures in rebuilding the infrastructure of a country virtually from scratch, and the implementation and modification of complex programs that can only spread through the efforts of the embedded foreign aid workers; some who, for the first time, are not only entering an impoverished foreign culture, but one that has been slammed by a natural disaster of epic proportions. Point being, the relief effort is going to take time, and time is something the Haitian people have little of.


More awareness. More aid. More volunteers. Better management. Greater vigilance. Complete accountability and openness... And unity; unity between the UN, NGOs, local and foreign government initiatives... This is what is needed; as well as the continued support by donors of NGOs in the field. The rainy season is coming and much to their credit, they're not going anywhere either. I've seen the work these organizations do, and the severe conditions they confront for the sake of helping others. They are the best of what Humanity can be... And they need your help. The next wave is about to hit, and don't doubt it, it will be devastating...

Update:  With the onslaught of a hurricane and subsequent flooding, and the limited progress in establishing a unified, coordinated relief effort between the UN and NGOs, a cholera epidemic swept across Haiti eight months after the disaster. Over 500 000 people became infected with the disease. Thousands died.

Article and photographs by photojournalist, Bradley Rae


For travel assignments and inquiries.
Bradley Rae
Freelance Photographer/ Writer
Presently on assignment in Australia & Papua New Guinea. Best way to contact me is through email.