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My terror as earth shook at field clinic

I woke up in my tent on a field hospital base and the earth was moving. My initial response was human, I panicked. When I had gathered my thoughts and calmed down I thought of the three million people also living rough in Haiti, all of whom have much less than myself, most have nothing.

In fact most have lost everything and now depend on the international community and a strong spirit to survive. This terrifying reminder of one of the worst disasters I have seen in 10 years working with the Irish aid agency GOAL reminded me of the urgent need to get essential supplies and services to the people of Haiti.

On my assessment trips throughout the capital I have seen images of destruction, despair and death on a scale that would not be out of place in a movie. It is hard to comprehend the earthquake's impact on the people of this Caribbean island without being here.

GOAL is distributing essential food, water, blankets and plastic sheeting for shelter. My personal frustration lies in the fact that not enough aid is getting through the system and out to the people quickly enough. Today GOAL distributed aid to 1,000 people living in desperate conditions in the northern hillsides of Port-au-Prince.

However, I wish it could have been 100,000 as the needs here seem endless. Three million Haitians have been affected by this disaster.

Turning desperate people away because we are waiting on stocks coming in from outside is a heartbreaking experience for anyone.


GOAL is putting pressure on the UN and the rest of the international community to step up a gear, get the stocks and personnel in to the country and get them out to the people as quickly as possible.

We will be doing everything we can by providing clean water, clearing the debris and rebuilding the infrastructure but this will take time.

But time is something that the people of Haiti do not have.

In addition, GOAL is supporting a number of field hospitals and clinics with medics and medicines.

Seeing patients being wheel-barrowed in by loved ones to the tented clinics demonstrates the desperation of the situation.

On this occasion the patient was already dead.

GOAL is getting great support from the Irish government in providing goods for distribution and a funding base for the longer term emergency response and the US government is now beginning to get stocks through to us.

And the Irish people have responded fantastically, with more than €1million in donations. The team of GOAL workers here with me are a mixture of doctors, nurses, engineers and logisticians. They are a hardy bunch and their resilience and drive is always refreshing.

On the way back from the distribution another reminder of what happened here, I saw a man hopelessly lifting small bits of rubble from his destroyed house looking for a relative. The enormity of the task seemed to drain him of his spirit.

He threw the rubble back on top of his piled house and in despair held his head in his hands not knowing where to begin.