When I was here in March, I found the tent cities one of the saddest things. At the time, I didn't understand why people were still living in those conditions two months after the quake. At that time, the tents were already ripping apart and with the light, infrequent rains, the situation was already becoming unlivable. It has now been 6 months since the earthquake. Things have only gotten worse.
As I write this, rain is pouring down, flooding paved walkways and roads. I can only think of people in the camps, where there is no paved anything. I think more particularly of Pinchinat.
In Pinchinat, people are stacked practically one on top of the other, many families sharing one hot tent, with nothing inside except a sheet or cot, if lucky. In March, there were about 5000 people in the camp. There are now upwards of 7000 people. There are gaping holes in some tents and others are falling apart because the wet ground can no longer hold the stakes. Children are still running around barefoot, but this time, dodging giant puddles of rain.
The air reeks and garbage is flowing everywhere. The water there is not fit for drinking, but it's the only option they have. Educational programs are spotty. Women and children have to cross the camp in order to get to the washrooms, and at night, this becomes treacherous. Prostitution is rampant, and saddest of all, there is an active trade of humanitarian aid in return for sex - both among the people and among "humanitarian" groups and their beneficiaries. (I was in a training session the other day for combating gender-based violence, and it turns out that one of the biggest contributing factors to the increase in rapes and sexual exploitation is the presence of NGOs here....seems the internationals are to blame for a high proportion of this. INFURIATING AND DISGUSTING.) According to the International Organization for Migration, camp Pinchinat "fails to meet any and all standards".
While waiting for the internet to reestablish after the rains so that I could post this, I got a call from Charlotte, one of the leaders in Pinchinat. A woman had just given birth during the storm, in a tent that was flooding with rain, without even a mattress to lie on. No one could get to them on time because the rain has flooded the roads. A member of the volunteer security team cut the umbilical cord with a razor. We can only hope it was an unused one.
We got the call because they know that we can run in and do what needs to be done without getting bogged down in procedure and red tape. We went to see the baby today and she is a tiny beautiful miracle. We visited her in the tent she was born in and it is swelteringly hot in there. The new mother has a borrowed cot so that the baby could lie comfortably. The mother does not have enough food or water to continue producing milk for the baby. While we tried to figure out where we could move the mother and daughter, we went to the UN Human Rights office to notify them of the situation. They are trying to arrange for the mother and daughter to stay somewhere safer. But, if nothing is done soon, this baby will not make it.
Friends, the conditions here are atrocious and I need your help. My NGO is a small one, and we don't yet have the funds to always help out in these special cases when we are asked. Mona and I keep paying from our pockets when we see families that are in need but we are starting to need help too.
I am making an appeal to each of you for help. If you feel like contributing (no amount is too small), it would mean the world to me. Please help me help my dear friends at Pinchinat. Please help me save this little baby's life.