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Haitians Grapple With Aftermath Of Devastating Earthquake


Relief efforts are underway in Haiti after an earthquake magnitude 7.2 struck the country's southwestern peninsula on Saturday. Some 1,400 people are confirmed dead so far. Thousands more are injured. Churches, schools and homes have been destroyed. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Ronald Jocelyn directs the education program at the nonprofit Hope for Haiti. He joins us now from Les Cayes. That's a city on the peninsula that has suffered a lot of damage.

Thank you for being with us. And I want to start by asking, how are you? How are people around you?

RONALD JOCELYN: Hi. I am doing well, but I can say that for now, people in Haiti are not doing well because of the earthquake that occurred on Saturday.

KELLY: Describe just what it looks like when you go outside, when you walk around. What does your city look like today?

JOCELYN: Well, when you walk down the street, what you can see is people gather the street on parks, on, you know, soccer fields, on the streets. That's where they live. That's where they sleep all night.

KELLY: Because their homes are destroyed.

JOCELYN: They are afraid of their homes because most of the houses, you know, sustained significant damages. And every now and then, there are aftershocks. And, you know, they are on the lookout and prefer to stay in the streets.

KELLY: So you're saying even people whose houses survived - the houses are still standing. They don't want to go in because they're worried they might fall down with the next aftershock. Yeah.

JOCELYN: Correct, correct because there are a lot of houses that collapsed during the earthquake. But many houses are still standing, but they sustained, you know, damages.

KELLY: What about the people. As you wander around your city, what are they telling you?

JOCELYN: They are suffering. They lack everything, like medications, medical supplies, food and shelters because they don't have where to sleep. And they are thirsty - no clean water, no food. And, you know, the hospitals - they are full with patients. And we don't, unfortunately, have enough manpower to take care of people that are victims.

KELLY: So how is your organization helping in the face of all of that? What are you able to do?

JOCELYN: Our staff, a group of 32 Haitian professionals - we are now helping out. For example, we open our clinic in Les Cayes to receive patients, to do wound care, give medications and prepare kits to distribute to the most vulnerable people in our partner communities.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, I'm listening to you. I'm thinking about that this is happening in the middle of a pandemic, and you're dealing with COVID. I'm thinking this comes just weeks after the president was assassinated. There are all these questions about who was even running the country for a while there. People must just be exhausted.

JOCELYN: Yes, definitely we are. And, you know, the Haitian people - we've been through a lot of, you know, difficult times day after day, as you mentioned, after the assassination of the president. We are going through COVID-19 insecurity, instability, bad governance and now the earthquake and a storm that is threatening us. You know, we can't take it anymore. That's enough for Haiti. And that's why I think it's really the time for our partners, our friends abroad to take a look at Haiti, to see that these people can't take it anymore. It's time to join hands and to help Haiti for good.

KELLY: That is Ronald Jocelyn of the nonprofit Hope for Haiti speaking to us from Les Cayes in Haiti.

Thank you very much for taking the time. We wish you well.

JOCELYN: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.