SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – While leaving the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince this morning we passed by a U.N. World Food Program food distribution site. Dozens of earthquake victims were hurrying back to their tattered shelters a few blocks away, large sacks of rice in their possession.
The eagerness of the Haitians to return to their families with this gift of life was evident on their faces. No one looked happy — just very concerned that they get back to feed hungry stomachs.
The sacks, emblazoned with the USAID logo, are meant to last two weeks. After that, the World Food Program plan calls for continued distributions of food across 16 zones around the capital. How long the distributions will continue is anyone’s guess.
The realization that this could go on for a very long time is sobering. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless in the country, most around Port-au-Prince. An estimated 400,000 of the area’s 3 million people have fled to the countryside, placing greater burdens on an already-stressed rural community where the agricultural capacity has been limited by recent hurricanes.
And here we — Catholic News Service photographer Bob Roller and myself — were ending our assignment after 10 days on the ground in the earthquake-ravaged city. We had the opportunity to leave. But these Haitians cannot. They will continue to encounter challenges that most Americans would find unimaginable.
Yet they stand strong as in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They are not giving up. Their example is one for the world.
Now it remains for the world to respond.