CNS on the ground in Port-au-Prince

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Catholic News Service is now on the ground in Port-au-Prince preparing to cover the recovery efforts of thousands of relief workers who are trying their best to aid hundreds of thousands of injured and homeless earthquake victims.

Even 17 days after the quake hit, people remain in great need. Thousands of people have taken up residence in city parks and public space in what can be described as sheet communities. Few people have tents. The overwhelming majority are using tarps, plastic sheeting, bed sheets, curtains, blankets tied to trees and posts with rope for shelter. Fortunately, the rain has held off for days.

The traffic coming into town today was backed up for blocks. Often our bus, which was filled with about 20 relief workers — including a team of trauma and orthopedic specialists from the University of Maryland Medical Center; representatives of the Haitian Ministries program of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn.; and a foursome of social workers from Caritas Lebanon — had to wait in traffic for up to 15 minutes in the congested Haitian capital.

The noisy, exhaust-laden air is good though because that means fuel is making its way into the country again.

“If you look at the traffic, it looks like things are getting back to normal,” Farid Moises, project manager for Catholic Relief Services Haiti in Port-au-Prince, told CNS late this afternoon. “But people are living with anxiety that we will have another, bigger (quake).”

At some collapsed buildings the bus passed, people could be seen digging by hand through mounds of rubble. What they were looking for is anyone guess. Loved ones or friends? Salvageable possessions? Hope?

Photographer Bob Roller and I will continue our journey through Haiti for the next week, documenting the impact of the quake on this poor country and its beleaguered people.

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