There are equally significant challenges in recruiting skilled local staff. I have learned that educational institutions here are not regulated which means that standards vary enormously and the qualifications that people have can be worthless in terms of accurately reflecting their level of skills or knowledge. To gain work experience in any formal sense has always been difficult and with nepotism rife, the limited opportunities that are available have rarely been offered on the basis of merit alone. To compound matters, the earthquake struck at the end of the working day at 4.45pm so many of the people who were skilled and experienced were killed when the offices they were working in collapsed. Not surprisingly, many of the survivors who had the means to do so have left the country.
In between interviews I’ve been out this week to look at a camp on a golf course where thousands of people spontaneously settled in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. ‘Terrain de golf’ as the camp is known was home to 60,000 people until 15,000 of them were moved and resettled into another camp in a bid to ease the overcrowding. It is also temporary home to the actor, Sean Penn, who has been living in a tent since January and co-ordinating the activities of the NGO he has set up there – an example of celebrity involvement in a humanitarian disaster that does not appear self serving.
The conditions in the camp are squalid and the pigs are thriving and enormous. I was told that the clean water and sanitation, education programmes, and healthcare that the NGOs and international organisations are providing in the camps are better than the access to services many of the camp residents had before the disaster. This may be the reality but it is a pretty depressing one when you see it – it’s hard to imagine more difficult circumstances. At one point, a little girl with multiple disabilities came and took my hand and wouldn’t let it go and leaving her there with no carer in sight was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do."