David Putt in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
TRANSCRIPT OF A CONVERSATION WITH DAVID PUTT, JANUARY 24, 2009
Trying to enlist support from the Canadian Military:
There are some legitimate reasons why things are the way they are, but there’s also a lot of political posturing, Americans controlling the airport, and lack of coordination between all these different agencies. Huge lack of coordination. Even amongst the Canadians themselves.
On the one hand the captain is saying, yes, I’ll get you whatever you want. And that’s what some other military guy told Eric and Monica yesterday. And it was on that basis that I went looking.
And like I say, most of them were polite, they tried to be helpful, but they said we can’t release stuff without CIDA approval. And so that’s completely inconsistent with what the couple [Eric and Monica] were told yesterday and again today by some other military. So get your own act together, you know. Get your own organization at least on the same page, and a page that will move things. I mean I’m there, with a truck, an empty truck, ready to take things to clinics, I’m not going to black market the stuff. They could make a quick judgment, saying is this guy going to ditch it or is he going to do something with it, they could have asked me more particular questions, whatever they needed to justify releasing it. But they didn’t. They’re a logjam.
In fact yesterday, I think I mentioned this already, they were saying you know unless we can get stuff out of here, the base, there’s no point in being here. We can’t bring any more in. One of them told Eric and Monica we’re gonna pull out unless we can move some stuff, soon. I don’t know why it is that they can’t move stuff. I mean there I was willing to move three tonnes worth. (RP: And this is the Canadians?) Yeah, this is the Canadians. (RP: The Canadian military.). The Canadian military, yeah. And I asked about security too, I said could you give us temporary security and he said oh, again I can’t tell you about that, they’re part of the disaster response team, the DART team, but talk to CIDA is what he told me about that too.
We got another urgent call from Champs de Mars, and they’re totally out of medication again. I was trying to get a good load of stuff. Eric and Monica had talked to some Canadian Military who had said come here and I’ll give it to you, we have to get this stuff out, if we can’t get this stuff out we’re just going to pull out ourselves because there’s no point in our being here. And they’re saying oh you have to contact CIDA and here’s the phone number, you phone the phone number umpteen times, and then oh yeah, here’s an e-mail connection, you have to have approval from them, you know, the chain of command.
The lack of aid on the ground:
There are so few of us on the ground that are actually doing anything, you pass umpteen armed UN vehicles. A few UN food program trucks. You just don’t see much aid. You just don’t see much aid on the road.
There’s very little significant aid in people’s hands. And in Champs de Mars, I haven’t been there for two days, but we got this call again today saying the clinic there had run out of supplies, and we gave them a significant amount the last time we were there, and if they’ve run out, it means they’ve had a lot of people coming in, still. And they’re just doing triage themselves. By now, you’d think the medical stuff, at least, would be covered off. This is day 11. There’s no significant aid getting into people’s hands. No major aid.
The big story is that people are dying every day because of this situation, and because of the lack of aid. I have never heard of another situation in which after 12 days there’s no significant aid on the ground. I mean I couldn’t have fathomed this a week ago, I thought a week ago that by the end of this week things would be really flowing.
And we keep being approached over and over and over again by Haitian doctor’s and nurses who are doing their damnedest to try and keep things going in these little clinics, which are often the only medical services available, and we can’t find enough medication to keep even the clinics we’re in contact with supplied.
And people are saying they haven’t eaten in days. I gave you the example a few days ago of the grass and peanut husk stew. I don’t know what they’re eating today. Anyway, nothing’s moving. In the places I go. And I don’t go everywhere, but I know it’s from all reports.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON CHAMPS DE MARS CLINIC IN DESPERATE NEED OF SUPPLIES
Faculté d’ethnologie/ Intitute of Ethnology
Off the Champs de Mars (near the presidential palace).
Clinic director: Lucien Joseph
+509 3 657 0787
+509 3 486 0021
+509 2 588 707
Description of the Champs de Mars Clinic and the Aid Situation
David received another two desperate phone calls on Saturday January 23rd and Sunday January 24th from the Ethnology Institute saying that they were out of supplies.
“And in Champs de Mars, I haven’t been there for two days, but we got this call again today saying the clinic there had run out of supplies, and we gave them a significant amount the last time we were there, and if they’ve run out, it means they’ve had a lot of people coming in, still.” Said David Putt. “We got another urgent call from Champs de Mars, and they’re totally out of medication again.”
Email from Dave
Putt, January 21st (written Jan. 20th):
It still seems that most of the aid supplies are stopped up at the airport. I really don't understand what the hold up is now.
In downtown Port Au Prince is the largest open space in the city, the Champs de Mars, adjacent to what used to be the presidential palace.
Imagine that Ottawa were a city twice the population and
had been hit by an earthquake killing 200,000, injuring 250,000, leaving a million homeless, in hot July. Imagine there is a tent city of 5 to 10,000 newly homeless on Parliament Hill. There 161 tent cities in Ottawa Centre. The stench of death keeps drifting through. There are no
sanitation facilities, almost no water, almost no food, no money, no banks, no functioning government, no commerce except a few street vendors. All day long heavy helicopters whack whack whack across the skies (in Champs de Mars I counted 22 in 2 hours on Sunday). They never land on Parliament Hill. I have met no one, local or aid worker who knows where they are going.
On one corner of
Parliament Hill is a clinic set up by the National Institute of Ethnology.
They have one doctor with almost no supplies. They have an underground
water tank that is empty.
On Sunday we delivered one truckload of water, 10 small water filters and a small garbage bag of the most basic medical supplies to the Institute of Ethnology clinic on Champs de Mars. Late today they made an urgent call to us asking whether we could deliver another tank of water and bring some med supplies. They are well organized and have a security system.
It is Day 8 and tonight we received a call from the clinic saying they are without water, the staff have not eaten in several days and there are no medical supplies left. Could we please help? It is Day 8 since the quake - where is the water, where is the food, where are the
medical supplies? Canadians have rioted in Vancouver and Montreal over things as simple as the Stanley Cup. People have been stoically holding on here under conditions unimaginable.
Email from Dave Putt, January 20th:
The situation here continues to deteriorate with many people now out of water, and food. We just had another call from the Ethnology Institute at Champs de Mars in the Centre of the city saying they are again out of water and medical supplies. No one there, including the clinic staff, has had any outside aid except from us. We thought when we did the stop gap tanker run on Sunday that by now the aid machine would be rolling. It is after all Day 8.
At the last filter installation the noon meal was a tiny bit of rice with a bouillon of what looked to me like grass with peanut husks. People in Canada would have rioted by now.
Here in Delmas, a major poorer suburb, there has been some medical aid by informal teams of doctors and improvised provision of medical supplies and also by teams of first Belgian, then Canadian and French doctors. But today, Day 8, there has still been no provision of water. Every day there are several dozen people asking if they can get water or food from us. There has been a very small distribution of food from the Dominican Republic through the mayor's office. Today we were installing filters in the neighbourhood for clusters of people who have lost their homes, and this afternoon we hope to get some more into clinics.
Several commented that we are the first aid of any kind that they have seen. One asked me where all the helicopters that fly over are going to? Many people are desperately short of water and have not eaten since the quake. Most people have no money to buy the little bit of local food available on the street.