January 19 2010

Situation in the SOS Children's Villages projects in Port-au-Prince

19/01/2010 - With the arrival of the first SOS rescue team from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic at SOS Children's Village in Santo on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, a first assessment of the situation at the SOS Children's Villages projects was possible. Read in the following a first-hand report from the team.

We found the village in a general atmosphere of calm, although all SOS families do their daily activities outdoors and even sleep in the courtyard of their houses due to fear that another earthquake will endanger their lives inside the houses. We saw the relief of Celigny Darius, the national director in Haiti of SOS Children's Villages, when we arrived and assured that we support him closely in this very difficult situation. Several co-workers from the national association lost their homes, so SOS Children's Villages is providing transitional housing in the village, as well as for the families of some co-workers who have taken refuge in the village.

Despite being the village a safe and quiet place, there is an atmosphere of sadness and distress amongst the children and co-workers as a reaction on the direct effect of the earthquake for their families and friends.

At the SOS Children's Village in Santo there is some normalcy in its operation. There is food for approximately ten days, the water supply works while there is gasoil for the plant and there is less damage to infrastructure. The two injured youths have received medical attention and are on track to recovery. No special measures are required by the time except for the assurance of food. Also for the SOS Children's Village in Cap Haitien in the North the food situation has to be assured.

The two SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools in Santo and Cap Haitien are closed at least until 17 February following an order by the Haitian government. The family strengthening programmes in Cap Haitien which are mainly organised in community centres* are not operating currently for national mourning and will take over its operation in the coming days.

None of the 16 community centres in Santo is working. People are scared and leave for the countryside with relatives. A high percentage of the homes of the supported families have collapsed. It is known that ten mothers of nine community centres are injured, four parents have died and many others are missing, and there are children living in the streets, but not in the vicinity of the village. There is a perceived high degree of traumatisation to stay under one roof, so people camp outdoors. The lack of food is increasing, and it is the most important priority of immediate support.

*Centres Communautaires = self-help groups supported by SOS Social Centre; part of the family strengthening programmes of SOS Children's Villages in Haiti