It's been three months since I last left Haiti so I once again find myself at a resort in the Dominican Republic, this one discovered by another volunteer for $10 a night, renewing my visa. Cheaper than a hostel, and a helluva lot nicer (http://www.lifestyleholidaysvc.com/index.php). Yay for CheapCaribbean.com promotions.
Still, I can't stop thinking about Haiti. Hurricane Tomas, luckily, was not nearly as damaging as it could have been, as it didn't hit Haiti directly but rather clipped the very edge of the country. No wind damage in Leogane or Port-au-Prince. However, it did complicate another very serious problem - the cholera outbreak. Whereas a few weeks ago it looked like the incident had been largely isolated and contained to the original outbreak location of the Artibonite Valley, Tomas did bring heavy rains and flooding to the country, which spread the disease, as it is waterborne. Leogane was largely underwater (http://vimeo.com/16704812) and All Hands is currently working to get mud and slime and everything else out of homes. That isn't the major problem though. In Port-au-Prince, the crowded and largely-destroyed capital, cholera has taken hold. Cite Soleil, the largest slum in Haiti, has confirmed cases, and all signs point to it spreading quickly. Al Jazeera and BBC News are reporting 1000+ new cases a day, and the death toll has jumped from the original 300 or so to nearly 1000 in just a few days. There are rumors of confirmed cases in Leogane, and the situation has me nervous. Being here 134 days now, I've made many very good Haitian friends. I know that, should the cholera situation get out of hand, I can and in all likelihood will be asked to leave by our organization. They are monitoring things closely, and given the intensely communal setup of our base here, cholera could be very dangerous for the volunteers. But we can leave. Many of my Haitian friends cannot. I hate the idea of having to go, and being able to really only watch and hope that the people I care about still in Haiti are OK.
It has been an intense couple of weeks. When Leogane flooded, I went out into the community with my Haitian friend Junior to check on his house and his mother's house. It is one thing to see a flood on TV or online, another entirely to be up to your waist in the water. I wasn't scared, but rather just kind of in a daze of sorts, watching people try and keep their lives going, or simply sitting somewhere above the water line, waiting. Even then, you'll find humor in the Haitians - a loved the guy who decided to turn his ice box into a canoe of sorts, paddling through the flow. Mototaxi drivers were still doing there best to try and push through the flood, sometimes carrying Haitian women still trying to maintain a nice dress code. It's amazing to me, but I suppose if you're from Leogane, a city prone to flooding, this isn't anything new.
Flooding and mud and hurricanes aside, it's the cholera that's on my mind, and the minds of most NGOs and people in Haiti. Protests are happening, with people venting their frustrations with their own inept government, the UN, and the NGOs here. The scale of the problems Haiti is facing now is overwhelming, and has been for a long time. It's been nearly a year since the earthquake hit, and it seems that, despite all the work All Hands and many others organizations are doing, we've only scratched the surface. It isn't to say it isn't worth it - it unquestionably is - but change comes slowly here, and I'd like to see all other impending catastrophes put on hold until we can at least get the millions of people still homeless in camps back into some semblance of a normal life.
The work continues. I'll be back in Haiti on Sunday. I'm happy for that. There is no other place I'd rather be at this moment.