By Marine Soreau
PARIS, FEB. 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- “Catastrophic,” “apocalyptic” are the adjectives used by the director of a French nonprofit to describe Haiti little less than a month after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake demolished much of country’s capital of Port-au-Prince.
Jean Robin, director of Fidesco, a Catholic aid organization founded in 1981 by the Emmanuel Community, spoke to ZENIT of what he saw when he visited the island nation this month.
ZENIT: You have just spent a week in Haiti to evaluate the needs and structures that must be restored. What have you seen?
Robin: The country’s situation is catastrophic. Port-au-Prince is devastated. Everything is in ruins, as if the city had been bombed.
Aftershocks continue, almost daily. No one enters his home any more; everyone sleeps outside. Most Haitians have lost their job, their home.
Thousands of corpses are still under the rubble. The scene is apocalyptic.
ZENIT: How are Haitians coping with this trial?
Robin: Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have left Port-au-Prince to go to rural areas. Many had an American passport or visa and have gone to the United States.
In general, the population is shocked. Life continues; small businesses are taking up their activity. They are a Christian people who are not defeatist.
It’s true that some wonder: “If God is punishing us, what does he wish to say to us?”
However, the majority of Haitians know that an earthquake is a natural disaster. They are courageous, one can see them praying in the street. Haitians are struggling; they want to rebuild their country.
ZENIT: What is the action of the Church on the spot?
Robin: The Church, which has also suffered losses in the earthquake, is one of the main actors of on-the-spot action.
Caritas International is present everywhere. It continues to be an essential element in the country’s reconstruction.
ZENIT: What are the missions that Fidesco has entrusted for years to the Volunteers of International Solidarity?
Robin: Before the earthquake, we had a couple and three children in the place, and two celibate young girls who work in educational missions and in an orphanage with the most underprivileged children.
All our volunteers are safe and sound; we have repatriated them. One of them was wounded; she was 17 hours under the rubble. At present she is in good hands, in a French hospital.
In regard to our missions, now they are useless. Everything must be reconstructed.
ZENIT: Isn’t it too early to speak of reconstruction?
Robin: For the time being, we are in a situation of urgency. People are without food, water and tents. We have opened a small camp, for 150 persons, which we hope to enlarge.
Humanitarian agents are situating themselves. On the whole, the NGOs are doing what they can, which is not something obvious.
ZENIT: Have you seen good humanitarian coordination?
Robin: The reactions are manifold. Some complain that the tons of materials, of provisions, are stored in warehouses and don’t reach the population.
In fact, some areas have not seen a single truck of aid or humanitarian urgency. The majority of camps are improvised camps, up to chance.
The coordination is far from being perfect but it is also far from being easy. Hence, it’s difficult for me to make a judgment.
ZENIT: To date, what are your projects for Fidesco?
Robin: We want to help our projects go forward but also launch new projects.
Fidesco is not only an NGO that sends volunteers at the request of local Churches; it also creates projects.
We want to propose projects of reconstruction and long-term development: schools, social action, professional reinsertion, orphanages.
We are in the process of evaluating it with our Haitian associates with whom we have worked all this week.
And that is why we need donations: the needs are enormous. We are going to have to reconstruct in a different way. It’s an urgency.
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[Translation of the French original by ZENIT]