On 12 January 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck close to Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, destroying much of the island's infrastructure and killing tens of thousands of people. Along with thousands of other buildings, the Panos Caribbean office, based in Port-au-Prince, was seriously damaged.
Thankfully the Panos Caribbean staff in Haiti are all safe. However, the wife of one of the members of the team was tragically killed in the earthquake and six other members had their homes destroyed. According to Jan Voordouw, Executive Director of Panos Caribbean, who is in Haiti, most of the Panos Haiti staff are sleeping outside – partly from necessity and partly from fear. None of them sleep well for fear of the ongoing aftershocks which continue to rock the island.
The Panos Caribbean office, which collapsed further following a substantial aftershock last Wednesday, is beyond repair. As Jan explains: "The office building was fatally damaged. The ground floor partly collapsed and major cracks have formed across the building. It may collapse at any time."
The building is now too dangerous to enter and Jan and the other Panos Haiti staff have had to accept that anything left inside is lost. Although they managed to save most of the computers and much of the radio studio equipment, they've lost a lot of other equipment and all their publications stock. In short, it is a major financial loss, but as Jan points out: "What is money in a time like this?"
Panos Haiti is now working on how it can make a contribution to the ongoing relief and recovery process. The current proposal is to work with Haitian journalists and local communities to support the process of Haitians speaking out on their priorities for recovery and rehabilitation. Giving local people a voice and supporting the local media will also hopefully help ensure that the funds coming in to the country are properly used and are accounted for to the local population, which is essential if aid is to be distributed fairly and used to effectively rebuild Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas.
For more information on Panos Caribbean please visit their website – www.panoscaribbean.org