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воскресенье, 5 марта 2017 г.

After the earthquake hit Haiti, Kathryn Bolles, 38, an aid worker with Save The Children, was one of the first to fly out to help

 This is her diary...

Thursday, January 14

I arrived in Haiti from the Dominican Republic this morning. I was on one of the only aeroplanes that managed to reach the tiny airport without being turned away.
It's like I've landed in hell. All around me is devastation. The sound of wailing echoes through the air as the walking wounded, young and old, dig through debris with their bare hands, trying to find their loved ones among the carnage.
There are reports of people tearing pipes from walls in a desperate attempt to find water, and scouring the ground for scraps of food in desperation, but I haven't witnessed this.
Kathryn Bolles
On Tuesday, January 12, the small Caribbean country suffered a devastating earthquake. The death toll is expected to top 150,000, while thousands of children have been orphaned, and millions more have lost everything they own.
I'm here with Save The Children and we hope to help survivors keep themselves as healthy as possible in these horrific conditions. There's nothing to eat or drink, the risk of disease is growing, and there's no basic sanitation.
As I'm driven towards the capital, Port-au-Prince, the horror of what's happened is worse than I imagined.
The roads are lined with dead bodies. The air is buzzing with flies and thick with the smell of death.
It's hard to describe my feelings. I'm the director of emergency health and nutrition for the charity, and while I've had training to help me cope with these awful disasters, seeing such human suffering is still hard to take.

Kathryn with one of the young survivors
As a trained nutritionist, my goal is to ensure people caught up in a disaster can survive. But it's hard to see where we're going to begin here. There really is nothing left.
I've worked for Save The Children since 1999, and I lived in Port-au-Prince for several years. I know Haiti inside out. It has a vibrant culture and lush, green landscapes. But it's the poorest country in the western hemisphere - many of the people were living in dire conditions with scarce health resources before the earthquake. This disaster has pushed it over the edge.
I'm dropped off at the Save The Children office, which has been damaged by the quake. I'd hoped to be able to assess the situation quickly and get help to where it's needed most. But it's needed everywhere. It's overwhelming.
According to my colleagues, many of the people they work with are missing and we're short of even the most basic supplies like blankets, food and clean water. I've been told that several people I knew from my time here are dead.
Queues of Haitians arrive to see us. Tired and shocked, many have walked for hours in the sweltering heat in the hope of receiving our help. But we only have a little food and water, and no medicine at all. We do what we can, but it's nowhere near enough. I wish we had more to give them at this stage.
In the afternoon, we take a couple of motorbikes into the heart of the capital. We can't drive the truck because of the rubble blocking the roads.
In town, it's chaos. Crowds of injured people wander around, dazed, cut and bleeding. We've heard reports of men and women looting shops, scavenging what's left for food and supplies, although we haven't seen any of that. Still, the air is tight with tension as people struggle to survive.
I'm going to sleep on the floor of a colleague's house that miraculously hasn't been damaged. At least I've got a roof over my head. Millions don't. I'm lucky.

Thanks to Save the Children, many people are getting help
Friday, January 15
Communications are down, but we're receiving the occasional text and email telling us that towns across the country are destroyed, totally cut off with no aid at all.
We decide to drive as far west as we can to try and help. The roads are littered with debris, making progress hard. All the time, I'm anticipating what we might find.
If the horror of Port-au-Prince was bad, these other places are beyond anything I can imagine.
In the town of Leogane, the earthquake's epicentre, we're greeted with the most harrowing scenes yet.
Around 90 per cent of it has been destroyed. Parents are crying out, begging for help to rescue their trapped children. Dirty and covered in dust, their faces are etched with pain, grief and exhaustion. Women weep helplessly, while grown men break down in despair as they realise they may never see their loved ones again.
We're the first aid truck to reach this area since the disaster struck. These people have had no help, no support, at all. We give what we can, but it seems like a drop in the ocean.
It's so hard to cope. Until our aeroplane arrives, bringing food, water and temporary shelter, we can't give these people anything other than advice.
I'm upset, but also angry. Our plane was turned away from the airport because there wasn't a landing slot available for it.
I'm here to help but I feel useless. People see our red Save The Children T-shirts and their eyes fill with hope. But right now we have nothing to give them but reassurance. And without our essential supplies, more people will die or get ill.
When an emergency happens in a country that doesn't have an infrastructure to cope with the influx of planes, boats and people, there's often a delay in aid arriving. But while I can understand why this is happening, it doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
As we travel back towards Port-au-Prince, I notice people building shelters from blankets and plastic sheeting they've salvaged from the wreckage.
Some are just a few tents, pitched together. Others are cities of tarpaulin, with thousands huddling away from the glare of the 32°C sun.
Men are carrying drums of water and moving bodies, while women are looking after children and queuing for supplies. There's a sense of vulnerability, that life is balanced on the edge. No one knows what will happen next.

Saturday, January 16
Today we went to the general hospital. Two-thirds of the building has been destroyed, but patients are still arriving.
There isn't enough room and people are pouring out into the streets around it. Some hospital beds are in front of the building, but most of the injured are simply lying on the ground outside. There's no food, water or medicine. I feel total shock. People might die from injuries like broken arms and legs if infections take hold in this heat.
On the way back from the hospital, we pass another makeshift camp. At least 6,000 people are crammed into an open space.
Kathryn with two babies born in the camps
A flock of faces crowd around us as we make our way into the sea of shelters. They tell us that the number of people staying here triples at night. The healthy leave during the day to search for food, water or family members.
As I take in the scene, the stench catches the back of my throat. There's no washing or toilet facilities.
I simply can't imagine how 18,000 people can fit into this space without even the most basic of facilities.
Then I meet a young woman who gave birth in the camp yesterday. She had no medical help, and hasn't eaten or drunk since the earthquake. She was scared her baby would die. She looks exhausted. I speak to her in French, one of Haiti's languages, and make sure she has support from people around her. I show her how to breastfeed, tell her not to give her baby water in case it's dirty, and to make sure she builds her own strength up with the food that is now available in the camp.
A man runs up to us, terror and desperation in his eyes. His 15-year-old daughter's in labour and he doesn't know what to do. There's nowhere for her to go. I calm him down, explaining about contractions and the importance of soap and clean water. I'm not a qualified midwife and neither are the colleagues I'm with. I reassure him we'll return with someone who can help.
Aftershocks are still rumbling through the earth. We're at the mercy of nature.
Sunday, January 17
We manage to find a doctor and immediately take him to the camp to find the teenage girl from yesterday. Pushing through the ever-increasing crowds, we're soon sucked into a swell of people. She could be anywhere.
The doctor stops to help others in need while we continue our search. We come across a woman in the late stages of labour. Without medical supplies or health facilities, I do what I can. But after two hours, it's clear the baby is breech and the mother has a serious infection.
I know I have to stay calm in order to help. Taking her to our car, I drive across Port-au-Prince searching for a hospital. The roads are difficult to navigate. It feels like a race against time. We go to five places where we've heard there is medical help, but every single one has been destroyed.
Finally, in the early evening, we find a local clinic and the woman is given an emergency C-section. Her baby girl is underweight, but healthy.
Watching her cradle her daughter, I feel a surge of hope. Thousands of people who needed help wouldn't have found it. But she's made it. Haiti has a future in her and children like her.
I only wish we could help everyone. And that everyone could be as lucky as that newborn baby girl today.
Tuesday, January 19
Our medical aid finally arrived yesterday and, as I write, eight tons of food and medical supplies and 14 doctors are on a convoy heading to Leogane.
We've been able to start setting up mobile health clinics. Disease could easily spread and be fatal. It could end up killing as many people as the earthquake did.
Children are the most vulnerable and they're our priority. We've also set up spaces in the camps to protect kids and give them a place to play and recover. A place to be children again. They don't understand what's happened.
Many are orphans and are helpless in the face of nature's cruelty. We're doing all we can for them. We try to find other family members by using photos and names written on paper.
No one knows what day, or even what time, it is. It feels like I've been here a year, not just a few days. In that time I've seen so much pain, fear, agony and anguish.
But I've also seen hope. Yesterday, a 16-month-old girl was pulled from the rubble after being buried alive for four days. As I watched, I could see her strength returning - her cheeks flushed with colour and, despite it all, she smiled at her rescuers.
And on Sunday we heard praying, singing and clapping coming from the camps. Despite everything, the Haitian people have held on to their spirit.
Thursday, January 21
There was another earthquake yesterday. It's destroyed our communication links, so I can't contact people in the UK.
It sent people running, panicked, into the streets again, as they tried to get away from buildings that are on the verge of collapse. The movement has shaken loose debris all over the city, and more people have been injured. Crowds are fighting to get on buses to the countryside, trying to escape.
But aid is arriving. People have been rescued and reunited with their families, who thought they were dead.
There's a fine line between horror and hope. Unless you're here, you can't imagine what it's like. Or why we want to stay.There's so much to do. And I'll help for as long as I'm needed.

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