Orietta L'Abbate

La Gonave, 65km x 15km, lies in the middle of the Haitian gulf, and it is part of Haiti, although the central government has systematically ignored it and its 100,000 people, who have now grown to an unspecified number as refugees arrive daily from mainland after the earthquake.

The island power was cut off in 1987, it has no sealed roads, sewerage and latrines were never built and water is extremely scarce as the water table is lowering; the economy relies on little agricultural produce sold at the local market and/or in Port au Prince, which leaves next to nothing after the ferry fee has been paid.

The situation on La Gonave is serious. No international aid has yet arrived to the island and as usual they are left to fend for themselves, see CNN report.

Our Association is now feeding 160 children - double the ones we normally feed - and more arrive. Our funds for the school meal plan that were supposed to last until June, will now hardly feed all by the end of February.

Our President spoke to the "big" ones only to hear that they help "their partners" only (source: World Vision!).

We have a cluster of 70 homeless families in the Palma-Nan Coton district, and we are working around the clock for them, here in Australia, but we will not be able to raise the money for repairs before the rains come. More importantly we doubt that a hurried reconstruction would be according to good workmanship standards, so perhaps we should opt for a "Shelter Box" type of solution, for the time being and then proceed with fund raising during the year, enabling better workmanship on-site.

I have contacted Rotary asking for some Boxes, but I am sure they are also snowed under.

The photos of all the units show little and/or badly made foundations, if at all, no diagonal bracing, bad cement-mixing. The structures that are still standing are those wooden-woven, although timber might be more expensive than cement (US$16.00/bag) in Haiti, as the country has been cutting trees to make fuel for stoves over the last two centuries. Haiti might be rich in gas, and many might be drilling, but certainly there are very few gas stoves in the country!

There is an engineer on La Gonave, and, providing we buy some time with temporary accommodations, he can ensure that proper building instructions are followed. We would need to buy at least one hand-operated cement mixer, to start with. This could be used in turns and would already improve cement mixing as compared with mixing it with a shovel only.

We were in the process of buying a land and build a green school and community centre, and will proceed with such plan after life resumes. For now we can only ensure that all children survive as without them there is no life.

Orietta L'Abbate, B.A. Arch - AWF, Intern. delegate: A.A.E.