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Haiti earthquake: young and old line up to call their loved ones

21-01-2010 Feature

A few hours after a strong aftershock jolted thousands of earthquake victims in Port-au-Prince awake on Wednesday morning, people lined up to call loved ones via satellite phones provided by the ICRC.

  See also:
Interview with the ICRC's Robert Zimmerman on what the organization is doing to help restore family links severed by the earthquake.  

Looking for a family member?  

ICRC activities in Haiti  
©ICRC/M. Kokic/ht-e-00459    
Netherlands Red Cross worker Meike Groen helps people use a satellite phone to reassure relatives that they are alive.    
    In an effort to reach out to people who might not know about the Red Cross tracing service, a mobile tracing unit staffed with ICRC specialists and Haitian Red Cross volunteers moved in the ravaged city, first in Canapé Vert and, later in the day, to the Institution St. Louis de Gonzague, where over 5,000 displaced have congregated. In Canapé Vert, over 2,000 people live in a squalid camp located in the middle of a roundabout. " Dozens have not yet had a chance to speak with their relatives since the earthquake struck " says Meike Groen, a Netherlands Red Cross tracing delegate working for the ICRC.

Young and old line up under a canopy where entire families are already sitting. Some opt for a two-minute phone call. Others give their name and address, which the ICRC will post on a website that relatives looking for information can consult. Marie Simon, 61 lost everything nine days ago, including her husband. She lives just nearby, on a cardboard, with not even a sheet above her head to shield her from the sun. " I want to leave " she tells her son, who is in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, " Please tell me what to do! "

Catherine, 26, also camps in the square. She studied public relations before the quake. Her house and her school collapsed last week. She owns a phone but cannot afford the fee young entrepreneurs in the square ask to recharge it. She calls a friend in Miami in the United States of America and hands the phone back. " Merci " she says simply with a beautiful bright smile on her face.