Haiti: Addressing urgent needs and supporting long-term recovery

As if Haiti did not have enough to deal with already, the earthquake-hit nation was dealt another blow with the arrival earlier this month of Hurricane Tomas. While Haiti was spared the agony of a huge disaster, Tomas did affect an area where CWS is working in northwestern Haiti.

Fernande Saint-Paul, 50, the mother of seven children, ages 4 to 25, said she was thankful for the tin roof over their newly constructed temporary shelter. "I had prayed for that," she said. The post-quake fear of concrete roofs remains palpable.
Photo: Catianne Tijerina/ACT Alliance

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

As if Haiti did not have enough to deal with already, the earthquake-hit nation was dealt another blow with the arrival earlier this month of Hurricane Tomas.

While Haiti was luckily spared the agony of a huge disaster had the Category-1 hurricane hit the many tent cities of capital Port-au-Prince, Tomas did affect an area where Church World Service is working in northwestern Haiti, and CWS is responding.

"It is a real disaster for the northwest," said CWS Haiti Program Coordinator Aaron Tate.

CWS pre-positioned large quantities of humanitarian materials before the storm, working with partner Christian Center for Integrated Development, known as SKDE in Creole. SKDE has distributed tarps, hygiene kits and emergency food assistance to 400 families working on 13 agricultural cooperatives in the northwest that receive CWS support. The emergency food includes beans, rice, pasta, flour, sugar and cooking oil, said Tate.

"While Tomas missed the center of Haiti, sparing the thousands living in tents, it did hit the remote northwest where CWS supports agricultural co-ops. Around 400 families have damaged houses, farmlands and livestock," he said.

CWS Haiti Program Coordinator Aaron Tate.
Photo: Catianne Tijerina/ACT Alliance

Assessments continue on longer-term needs. "We've addressed the immediate-term needs with tarps and kits, and the medium-term needs with food," Tate said. "Now we're assessing what else is needed and what we can do."

This comes on top of continued support by CWS for the cooperatives as part of the agency's overall post-earthquake recovery and rehabilitation efforts. The cooperatives are providing long-term food security and self-reliance in the Northwest and Artibonite regions, both for residents of the region and for family members who left Port-au-Prince for rural areas following the massive Jan. 12 earthquake.

With CWS assistance, the co-ops are providing their members with access to revolving funds for necessities like seeds, tools and fertilizers; rural women's access to small credit to help them start or expand a micro business; appropriate training and technical assistance including adult literacy; and continued emotional support to members and their families still dealing with the problems and pressures prompted by the quake and other long-term problems.

The CWS efforts are part of the larger work of the ACT Alliance in Haiti, both for long-term recovery and rehabilitation work and for the immediate response required after Tomas.

One area where ACT members are responding is the city of Léogâne, the epicenter of the earthquake and the city most affected by the January disaster. Léogâne was badly flooded after Tomas and has been the site of some of Haiti's numerous large-scale, post-earthquake "tent cites." Needs assessments in the community are being conducted by CWS partners and ACT Alliance members, including the Lutheran World Federation and Finn Church Aid, which have long-standing ties to local schools and community groups.

CWS's work continues as Haiti deals with a cholera outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people. CWS and its local and ACT partners are continuing anti-cholera education efforts among their beneficiaries and are also working toward long-term solutions to the problems of water and sanitation in Haiti.

"This problem won't go away until there are clean-water systems in all of Haiti," Tate said.

How to help

Contributions to support recovery work in Haiti may be made online or by phone (800.297.1516), or may be sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. 

ACT Alliance  Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

See also, "Haiti: Religion's response to disaster" 


All active news articles