|Haiti: 3 years after the earthquake, still a need for a people reborn|
Three years have passed since the earthquake that shook Haiti on January 12, 2010, leavingthe already unstable country in a state of humanitarian emergency. In its wake the disaster left 230,000 people dead, 1.5 million men, women and children without homes and all but razed to the ground large sections of the historic districts of Port-au-Prince. After 3 years, what can we say about the situation in Haiti, where AVSI continues its commitment begun in to accompany and support the people?
“The Haitian people must be reborn…We are called to assume our responsibility, by taking care of our present and our future with determination, with wise and intelligent planning options, in view of our autonomy.” These are the words of the Haitian Bishop Yves-Marie Péan of Gonaives on the occasion of Independence Day, celebrated on January 1. On the same day President Joseph Michel Martelly gave an address underlining how political crisis, economic difficulty and natural disasters have seriously slowed Haiti’s growth. “If Haiti wants to be the owner of its own destiny,” Martelly said, “it must not lose the battle for development.”
Today, over 360,000 Haitians are still living in tent camps set up after the earthquake in 496 locations throughout the country, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration (OIM). More than half of these (58%) are unemployed, and 57% of families reported having only a single parent, making income generation even more difficult. With this report, OIM urges the international community and donors not to abandon Haiti or to forget the many families who need more time in order to begin again on a path to stability.
Food security, nutrition, water, education, child protection, income generation: these give a snapshot of the integrated projects being carried forward by the AVSI team in Haiti, led by country representative Fiammetta Cappellini with around 100 staff members, most of them Haitian. In the last 3 years, they have built and begun operation of 16 new structures in Cité Soleil and Martissant, two of the most conflict-ridden slums of the capital city: 9 schools, 5 nutritional centers and a multi-purpose psychosocial and educational resource center. In addition, AVSI has helped residents begin to earn an income through a community restaurant and studios for clothing design, bead-work, and iron-shaping. Small miracles have happened in these workshops where disadvantaged youth or former gang members turn recycled tents and iron from oil barrels into fine beaded purses, jewelry, picture frames and decorative items that are marketed locally and abroad.
With the support of the staff and local communities, and contributions from private companies, individuals and friends of AVSI around the world, the work continues empowering a population as it is reborn. There is still a long and difficult road ahead for Haiti, but after three years we can see large steps forward: rebuilt schools are in session, children are studying, mothers and fathers are learning to sew and to raise crops to sell and feed their families. Slowly, but steadily, Haiti is blossoming again.