A 6.1 magnitude aftershock rocked Haiti earlier this week in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which devastated the nation on 12th January, estimated to have killed anywhere from between 100,000 and 200,000 people and to have made another 1.5 million homeless.

Damage from the aftershock - centred about 60 kilometres south-west of Port-au-Prince - was not known but it added to the fear of the tens of thousands of people who are now living on the streets following the destruction of their homes.

"Uncertainty is what most people I met spoke about," Simon Schorno, the Haiti spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross was quoting as saying. "However, the people of Haiti are incredibly resilient and despite the pain, hardship and chaos, a semblance of normality seems to be returning to Port-au-Prince."

Relief organisations report, meanwhile, that aid efforts continue to gather momentum. The Red Cross/Red Cresent organisation is delivering 500,000 litres of water a day and as many as 19 of the organisation’s emergency response units are being deployed to the stricken communities, making it their largest ever deployment.

Mr Schorno said life for the tens of thousands of survivors living in makeshift camps remains difficult.

"Hygiene is a problem even if the people and in some cases the local authorities have started to organise to find water or to collect trash,” he said.

"Many people tell me they have run out of cash or are about to, that the price of vegetables and bread is skyrocketing and that they would not survive if they did not pool their resources with others.

"Many look for work, like the young men who line up at the gates of international organisations hoping to get day jobs. In the Place de Champs-de-Mars, coal vendors seem to be doing brisk business selling to families living in makeshift camps who use small tin barbecues to cook. [Business people] are offering to recharge mobile phones or are renting them out for a fee."

Earlier this week, Oxfam Australia said responding to the Haiti earthquake has been one of the “toughest challenges” the organisation has ever faced.

“One week after the earthquake struck, aid is beginning to get through,” a spokesperson for the organisation said in a statement. “However, the impact of the earthquake on Oxfam’s Haitian and international staff, the logistical challenges combined with a destroyed office and warehouse and the loss of communications have made this the one of the hardest responses the agency has ever mounted.”

Oxfam lost two employees in the quake and most local staff had their homes damaged or destroyed.

“Many of my staff here have lost their homes, and some have had family losses,” said Yolette Etienne, Oxfam Haiti country director. 

”Two Oxfam members of staff were killed when the quake struck and I lost my own mother.  But we are still here working.  I told my staff that we have no choice, no other option but to work and to work harder since we have the privilege of still being here and we can help people to overcome their desperation.  A day after the quake most of the staff were back at the office planning our response.”

There was cause for brief celebration at a Red Cross/Red Cresent field hospital in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday when a two babies were born with 90 minutes of the aftershock, one of them by caesarian and one naturally.

Another small moment of joy came on Monday when Steve Matthews, a member of World Vision’s global rapid response team, was approached by a couple of children while a reporter was interviewing a colleague.

Two little girls came up and smiled at me nervously, looking at my camera, and laughing,” he said. “I smiled and took their picture and showed it to them. They howled in laughter. We then got into giving each other high fives and low fives. And a few more pics. 

“It's the children. They are the reason I do this work. They break my heart over and over when I see them in such dire circumstances. But they are so resilient. They can still laugh and play in the midst of despair, almost oblivious. Adults should stop and learn from their children more often. Life is rough. But it's never too late to smile and have a moment of joy, even in a disaster like this one."


• Act for Peace, Haiti Earthquake Appeal

www.actforpeace.org.au/givenow or phone 1800 025 101

• Caritas Australia

www.caritas.org.au or phone 1800 024 413

• Compassion Australia, Haiti Earthquake Disaster Appeal

www.compassion.com.au or phone 1800 22 44 53

• Oxfam Australia, International Crisis Fund


• World Vision Australia, Haiti Earthquake Appeal