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Haiti Earthquake 2010

A massive earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale  caused widespread devastation in the poor Caribbean nation of Haiti on 12 January 2010, killing and injuring tens of thousands of people and leaving countless more without homes. Please donate now for ongoing relief and the reconstruction of people's homes, schools and livelihoods.

Three years on, CWS partner ICKL reports on achievements in 2012 and critiques the international aid effort.

Telling the Full Story

A woman stands in front of a small shop in the Petionville camp at the edge of Port au Prince, Haiti. Dozens of encampments still house thousands two years after the earthquake.A woman stands in front of a small shop

In Haiti, the 12th of January was declared a national holiday, so that people could spend time with their families and commemorate the lives of those who died in the earthquake exactly two years before.

For the world’s news media, the day was yet another chance to revisit the country and express outrage at the frustratingly slow pace of the reconstruction effort.
Driving into the centre of town from Port-au-Prince airport, journalists faced the depressing sight of the dozens of encampments still home to thousands of people. But this very obvious ‘failure of the reconstruction effort’ is more nuanced than it seems.

In the first place, fears of corruption have made major donors slow to release funds to the Haitian government.
The Guardian reports that, “Figures released by the UN special envoy for Haiti show that only 53% of the nearly $4.5bn pledged for reconstruction projects in 2010 and 2011 has been delivered.”

Of the money that has been transferred to Haiti, only a tiny proportion has gone to the government. This means that the Haitian government has a limited capacity to provide the level of health care, education and sanitation to communities in Port-au-Prince that are being provided by private agencies in the camps. There is currently a perverse incentive to stay in a camp even if you have a habitable home.

International NGOs, although very visible in the capital, are not set up to rebuild cities. They can provide basic sanitation, health and education services in the camps, but it is much harder to do the same thing in communities. That is the role of the government.
Nor is what you see in Port-au-Prince the full story. Before the earthquake very few journalists ever visited Haiti and those that have arrived since rarely venture outside of the capital.

It is a much better story to say that “Haiti is still in the grip of despair and chaos and the aid effort you funded is to blame,” as the Mail on Sunday did last week.  It requires a lot more research to accurately report what it going on in Haiti in a balanced way, as The Guardian has been doing in its ongoing series on rebuilding Haiti.

From the beginning, ACT Alliance members have focused their efforts on helping people to resettle in the countryside. Before the earthquake, many people lived in the capital out of economic necessity rather than choice. Unfair trade rules that allowed other countries, particularly the US, to undercut Haitian farmers by dumping subsidised rice on the market, made it difficult to earn a living outside the capital.
ACT Alliance partners have been building permanent homes at various sites around the country so that people who were forced by the earthquake to leave the capital and return home are able to resettle there permanently.  The home-building programme is integrated with various initiatives to help people earn a living. In one fishing community, solar-panelled refrigeration units have been provided to enable the fishermen to sell their catch over a longer period and thereby command a higher price.

In other parts of the country, partners are planting trees that help to reverse deforestation and make people less vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Also, when the trees start to bear fruit, they are another source of income for the family.  A great deal remains to be done, and the pace of re-building is frustratingly slow, but the lives of thousands of Haitians have genuinely improved in the two years since the disaster.

Sarah Wilson is a senior international journalist for ACT Alliance member Chrisitian Aid.
17 January 2012

Two years on: Haiti rebuilds but slowly

The devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 provided a new opportunity for the people of Haiti to rebuild their country.  Two years on the results are mixed and media reports are questioning what has been achieved. over half a million people are living in tents and 6,300 have lost their lives to cholera.  UN peacekeepers remain posted to the country despite growing internal criticism, including for the introduction of the cholera strain that has infected 5% of the population.President Michel Martelly has been installed as President and in October confirmed Gary Conille as the Prime Minister, after two other names had been declined. Both have links with corrupt Duvalier regimes.

Even before the earthquake 70% of basic services were provided by non-governmental agencies.  The reliance on foreign aid looks set to continue although international support is beginning to fall as the country moves into the critical reconstruction phase.  The quality of post-quake assistance can serve to keep people in poverty or put them on the road to a better future.  When groups and organisations flooded into Haiti, two years on the there is lot to learn from the work undertaken by those involved.

It was always going to be difficult – the country was devastatingly poor and the prognosis was not good.  Housing, sanitation, food, safe water, healthcare and education were already in short supply.  The government was fragile and the international players tended to ignore it.  The many different agencies that came to help did not always work in the best interests of the Haitians.  The ACT Alliance is making a significant contribution through its members who are working in partnership with local communities to ensure the best results for Haitians. 

Local Haitians prepare the ground for a new school.  ACT Alliance/B Depp

Recovery from the bottom upLocal Haitians build new school
In contrast to the top-down approach of many, ACT Alliance – one of the largest blocs of humanitarian support in the country – has placed a strong emphasis on working with longstanding local partners, with some relationships going all the way back to the 1950s.
These Haitian partners already had the trust of local communities before the quake struck, and so were able to help facilitate the ACT emergency response in its initial phases. In the quake’s chaotic and dangerous aftermath, for example, many aid agencies felt the need to rely on military escorts to distribute supplies in insecure environments.

ACT never resorted to any militarised distribution methods – instead relying on local partners who helped secure the transfer of life-saving necessities to communities who already had their trust and support. For instance, ACT members The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) and Christian Aid relied solely on local partner organisations during their distribution of critical supplies to families in the affected communities.

As the emergency phase of the response came to a close, ACT adapted its response toward rebuilding and recovery initiatives. Now, two years on, the value of the partnership approach has been demonstrated time and again in cases where local organisations have been able to guide ACT member organisations toward sustainable solutions valued – and moulded – by the local community.
CRWRC, for example, changed its home construction materials – from a tarp to plywood-based model – on the advice of members of the local Community Advisory Committee (CAC) in Leogane.

“The provision of houses whose walls are clad in [a more durable, less penetrable] plywood has made families more secure, more confident in their living environment – liberating them to pursue daily activities without undue worries about the safety of their families and belongings,” explained Jean Pierre Paul and Shiller Cherilan of CRWRC/CAC, Leogane.

Looking ahead, CAC members insist that international organisations must continue to reinforce their trust in and respect for local organisations – particularly now, as the international response transitions from one of humanitarian relief to long-term development. Just as grassroots initiatives were central to successful relief and recovery efforts, Haitians must continue to be at the centre of the ongoing work to build a sustainable future for their country.
CRWRC partner organisations who assisted with food distribution efforts in Leogone mentioned above include the Organisation des Jeunes Progressistes de Masson (OJPM); Connexion des Idées Evolutives et Progressives de la Pte- Rivière de Leogane (CIEPLE); Macombre: Regroupement des Cadres de Développement pour la Petite Rivière de Leogane (RECAD-PRIL); Luithor: Union des Jeunes Progressistes pour le Développement de Luithor (UJPDL); and Croix des Peres: Organisation des Jeunes Progressistes de Croix des Peres (OJPC)
CWS and Mara Caputo/ACT Alliance


CWS is grateful to the many supporters who contributed to our emergency appeal. Our support is for the long haul.  Please donate to the Haiti Appeal.


One year on for Haiti…

Links to January 2011 ACT Alliance reports, images and videos can be found here.

Chris Herlinger, ACT Alliance, December 2010

Next month, the world's attention will once again focus intensely on Haiti. Journalists covering the one-year anniversary of the earthquake will ask the inevitable questions about successes and continued challenges.

In Haiti's overall difficult social and political context, ACT Alliance will be able to point to both. The challenges remain obvious – and not only because of the recent problems posed by Hurricane Tomas, the outbreak of cholera in Haiti and protests over national elections.

The large number of people living in towns and cities, the great need for relief goods, the logistical problems, and the continuous movement of people from the camps, require lots of flexibility, readiness to adjust and constant follow-up on the part of aid workers, said Geneviève Cyvoct, ACT Alliance response coordinator.

A clear success: the fact the alliance could rapidly build on the structures and expertise of well-established ACT members already in Haiti, and launch extensive relief operations that would not have been possible without the network of partners, said David Korpela, Finn Church Aid’s Haiti country director.

"Haiti has been an excellent example of cooperation between ACT members and the sharing of supplies and expertise to bring about results that would not have been possible acting alone."

Korpela noted that Finn Church Aid, working with the Lutheran World Federation, has established 240 temporary and semi-permanent classrooms at 50 schools since the earthquake, with extra assistance from Norwegian Church Aid.

Before the floods caused by Tomas last month, Leyogàn, the quake's epicentre, provided evidence of some of the alliance's hard-earned successes. Leyogàn is a community where at least 30,000 people were killed, nine out of 10 families lost homes and where nearly all structures were either damaged or destroyed.
Students at two Episcopal schools were completing their school year when the floods hit – a school year already delayed by three months – in tents provided by ACT.
The school year had proven painful and difficult, said school coordinator Kenson Vilmé. “It's not the same endeavor as before,” Vilmé said. “The blow has gone but the scar remains.”

Still, students and teachers found the strength and determination to continue on. While the temporary shelter provided by a tent was far from ideal, particularly as the hot summer months continued, there was good reason for the tents. "If it had not been for the tents, we wouldn't have had school," Vilmé said. Plans are under way for a permanent school to be built next year.

"It's all good, life is not over because of this," Vilmé said. "Life continues. You have to get up and still keep living."

Later that day, a visit outside Leyogàn to the community of Masson, showed what another ACT member, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, was doing in local communities. CRWRC has provided 10,000 people tools, hygiene and cooking kits, emergency and so-called "transitional" shelter materials to bring structures up to hurricane standard, and improved water and sanitation access.

The work done to damaged homes took pride of place. As Ron Fuller, a CRWRC international relief manager put it, "Homes are like the social fabric; those (people) who were not uprooted from their homes can come right back to where they always lived."

Among those whose homes were being repaired was Carmene Calixte, in her 90s and known in the community as "Madame George", who lives with her niece Premise Louis, 45, in a home that has been in the family since 1955. As repairs to the structure were made, Calixte said simply: "It's a beautiful house."

Down the road - and not far from where CRWRS has built several new artesian wells - repairs were being made to another home.

Fernande Saint-Paul, 50, the mother of seven children ranging from four to 25, was thankful for a tin roof over her newly-constructed temporary shelter. In a country where the post-quake fear of concrete roofs is real and palpable, she expressed an often-heard sentiment. "I had prayed for that."

Teaching in a hot tent

Students and teachers at the St. Esprit (Holy Spirit) School in Leyogàn reflect on living "tent to tent" – from home in a tent to school in a tent and back home to a tent.

Mesgline Pierre, a first-year primary school teacher, describes the situation as obviously difficult. While students and teachers alike were eager to finally return to school following the initial months of trauma and inactivity after the earthquake, trying to teach and learn “in a hot tent is difficult”, she said. “The students can't really learn well. We all really want to return to normal.”

However, primary school student Louis Jean Kensky, 7, said he enjoyed learning in a tent. “It feels good. It feels fresh,” he said, adding he found classes were not that difficult in the hot weather. Perhaps his robust nature comes from his ambitions: Kensky said he wants to be a professional soccer player.

Sixth-grader Wedfalie Pierre, 13, said she was “happy to return to school” both because it was good to leave her family's temporary shelter and to continue her studies in mathematics, science and French. Her ambitions? "To be either an artist, a nurse or an actress."


News Reports

>>Forgotten people gaining dignity 12/7/10: Haitians with disabilities supported to rebuild their lives, especially those left amputees following the earthquake. Full story

>> Haiti six months on 12/7/10 Full story

>> Seeds to restart food production: CWS supports seed and tool distribution so Haitian farmers can return to their livelihoods. Full story

>> Back to School: CWS partners reopen schools in tents. more

>> Haiti two months after the 'quake A moving reflection from CWS's Media Officer on being in Haiti on the 2 month anniversary. "Beauty and tragedy, cheek to cheek, that’s one of the truly amazing features of Haiti two months after the quake. Maybe it was always so." Full story

>>Arts Help Haitian Children Heal 2/3/10 Drawing, music, painting and dance are helping children deal with the stress of displacement. More

>>Youtube presentation from ACT Alliance. Click here

>>CWS supports health care in Haiti 27/01/10. ACT Alliance members in Port-au-Prince continue to support medical care for Haiti’s most vulnerable providing food for malnourished children and a tent hospital.   More

>> Situation Update 25/01/10 The situation continues to be desperate for the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti but material aid is reaching them. More

>> Clean water from filthy 23/01/10  A water purification system, with pipes, filters and pumps brought in by CWS partners is providing 10,000 homeless Haitians with crystal clear drinking water.

Read more

>> Urgent needs outside Port-au-Prince 20/01/10.  CWS partners are focusing on communities outside Port-au-Prince, where the damage has been greater but little help has been received. More

>>Aid reaching Haiti. 19/01/10 CWS partners are getting much needed relief into Haiti. More

>> No one immune from devastation 19/01/10 Latest reports of reality facing Haiti and relief services. Includes first hand accounts. Read more

>>A journey to Port-au-Prince 19/01/10 ACT Alliance’s Sarah Wilson describes the tough journey to Port-au-Prince, highlighting the problems all aid agencies share moving to and from the disaster area. More

>> Healing the traumatised 16/01/10. This ACT Alliance project gets local people engaged in community based activities; repairing houses, cleaning streets, rebuilding schools etc. It is a way of offering hope for the future. Water and hygiene are another important focus. Full report
>>Port-au-Prince “looks like a war zone” 15/01/10. Between 60 and 80% of the houses in Port-au-Prince were brought down or left uninhabitable by Tuesday’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Read more

>>People buried alive when houses collapsed: The first reports from ACT International on earthquake damage, the latest in a series of disasters to strike the improverished state. read more

>>Disaster background 14/01/10

A Prayer for Haiti

Loving and gracious God,
We bring before you the people of Haiti
Who are struggling to survive after the unimaginable devastation of the recent earthquake.
Be with them as they dig themselves out of the rubble,
As they mourn the loss of loved ones,
As they bury their dead,
And as they wrestle with the despair and trauma of this disaster.
Guide and empower those emergency and aid workers who are delivering supplies and standing alongside the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and their country.
Bring healing and hope to the suffering,
Courage and determination to the survivors,
and light and peace to the nation.
We ask this in the strong name of Jesus
Who stood alongside poor people,
And healed the brokenhearted

'Forgotten people' gaining dignity
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – In a city where mobility is difficult even for able-bodied persons –given the pressures of traffic, extreme residential congestion and now, the perils and hazards of debris and rubble – a monthly celebration at a church here has come to represent a triumph for Haitians like Marlene Derley.

"It means a lot to me," Derley, 39, said of a recent gathering sponsored by ACT Alliance members Church World Service and Service Chretien d'Haiti for those in a program to assist and empower people with disabilities. "It has given me the first opportunity to meet other people," she said. "Otherwise I would stay at home and just think about my injury."

Derley, an amputee who lost her right arm after a building collapsed during the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, was referring to the ostracism people with disabilities in Haiti often face – and the particular strain felt by those, like herself, who are newly disabled in the wake of the quake.

"It's very difficult," Derley said on the grounds of the Tabernacle of Faith Congregation just days before Haiti marked today's (July 12) six-month anniversary of the earthquake. "People with disabilities don't have much importance in society."

By contrast, the monthly celebrations – replete with music and singing – are a way for Derley and others to come together, celebrate accomplishments and build a much-needed sense of community.

But the ACT program is not only about providing community and a safe space against the harsh realities of being disabled in Haiti; there is a needed material aspect to the program. Participants receive a modest monthly stipend, US $75 a month for six months, to help them get through the current difficult times. The program began in March; when it ends later this year, 1,200 persons will have participated, and the program will have benefited not just individuals, but their families as well.

For the Saturday celebrations, buses pick up the participants and return them to their homes. That in itself is significant, said Burton Joseph, CWS's program manager in Haiti, noting that, in general, those operating public transportation in Haiti appear to dislike picking up the physically disabled. Why? Joseph said they are seen as people who slow down traffic.

"No place in society is reserved for them," Joseph said of people with disabilities. "Even at church, there are no ramps for wheelchairs."

During humanitarian emergencies, "the disabled are the first to be forgotten," said Ernst Abraham, head of Service Chretien d'Haiti. "That is why we decided to make their needs a priority."

That decision is paying off in small but vital ways. Derley is using her ACT grant to restart her small restaurant business at home – a much-needed boost since she and her family are depending on the restaurant income. Derley’s husband, a former factory worker, is at home to help her and raise the couple's 9-year-old daughter.

"We depend on the money from the restaurant," she said, explaining that the grant is helping restock supplies, all of which were destroyed in the quake.

Aaron Tate, who is coordinating CWS efforts in Haiti, says many of those in the program are, like Derley, using their grant to help get their businesses restarted. Others are using it to buy food. Still others are using it to pay for their children to go to school -- or for themselves to go to school, to get education and improve their future.

Still, they will likely confront more than their share of challenges and difficulties. People with disabilities remain some of the most at-risk residents of Haiti, Tate said. They have faced greater challenges in adapting to new living conditions, such as tent cities for the displaced, and they have difficulty in accessing relief assistance in general.

"When it comes to standing in line, to get a delivery of rice or to get on the list to get a new house," Tate said, "people with disabilities are always going to be the last in line."

Tate noted that Church World Service is not known as a disability organization – but that it is "interested in is helping vulnerable people, and people with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable in Haitian society."

Locia Toutpuissant, 42, another ACT program participant, agrees with that assessment, saying that "it's not easy to cope with a disability, and we've been neglected so much in society, making it hard for us to get by."

Toutpuissant, a shopkeeper who sells small items and groceries, lives with a spinal condition that affects her ability to walk – a condition, incidentally, inherited by all six of her children, ages 3 to 21.

She said that "getting by" has not gotten any easier since the quake. She, too, lost her inventory in the quake. "I had a small business but it became a nightmare," she said. However, the cash grant has softened the blows, helping Toutpuissant feed her children and restock her store’s inventory.

As for the monthly celebrations, Toutpuissant said she cherishes the time with others, calling them “welcome moments of pleasure.”

"We felt humiliated before," she said. "Now, I don't feel lonely like I used to."

(This is the second of a series of stories by ACT communicator Chris Herlinger focusing on the first six months of ACT Alliance recovery work in Haiti.)
12 July, 2010

Haiti, six months on

By Chris Herlinger

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – No one said responding to the aftermath of Haiti's devastating 12 January earthquake would be easy.

They were right.

As humanitarian workers of ACT Alliance freely acknowledge, the continuing work of repairing, rebuilding and rehabilitating Haiti in the first six months since the earthquake has been marked by numerous obstacles, significant problems and huge challenges.

"If you look at the numbers of those we have served, it is impressive," said Sheyla Marie Durandisse, Port-au-Prince-based emergency response coordinator for the Lutheran World Federation, one of the members of an alliance that has provided assistance to more than 341,000 persons. "But compared to the continued needs, you just see challenge after challenge."

Durandisse's colleague, emergency deputy Jean Denis Hilaire, was even more stark in his assessment. "It's like a drop of water in the bucket," he said. "There is still so much to do."

The most glaring problems: what to do with the tens of thousands of people living in tent cities, the need to relocate them and to rebuild houses. Also of concern: settling tricky disputes over affected land and property and the seemingly endless task of removing rubble and debris.

Fueling all of these worries is the perception by many that the Haitian government has not moved quickly enough to resolve these problems – though others argue that criticism of a weakened government ill-serves the efforts to assist earthquake survivors.

"The biggest challenge that we are facing now is ensuring that everyone has a safe and sustainable place to live," said Prospery Raymond, country manager for ACT Alliance member Christian Aid. "There is not enough land currently available to build permanent houses for everyone who needs them. The Haitian government needs to address that issue as a matter of urgency."

At the same time, "international and local NGOs must improve their level of co-ordination and collaboration with the state," Raymond said. "Now that six months have passed there is no longer any excuse for not working effectively together."

Working together ultimately means helping improve conditions for the tens of thousands living in Haiti's numerous displacement camps.

It says something of the fortitude and resilience of Haitians that at the St. Thérèse camp in Port-au-Prince, Yvan Chevalier, a member of the camp's management committee, described conditions in his camp of more than 4,300 persons as "stable."

True, on a recent day, a group of children kicked around a soccer ball for an impromptu game. But any sense of stability is likely to be short-lived, Chevalier said. "More people are expected here," he said, shaking his head, because another nearby camp is closing down.

Life within the camps themselves is, to be charitable, crimped, tense and uneasy. Residents must deal with overwhelmingly crowded conditions, crime and, in the case of women, continued threats of sexual violence.

Rains that are a normal part of Haiti's rainy season are worsening conditions in the camps, and there are continuing fears about how the camps will fare as the Atlantic hurricane season continues. At the St. Thérèse camp, where LWF has distributed humanitarian items such as health kits, residents have constructed boardwalks and small moats, as well as fortified their tent areas with stones and concrete, to protect against the rains.

"People want a solution," said Durandisse. "They want a normal life."

Trauma also remains an issue. "January 12th left us with so many problems," said the Rev. Kerwin Delicat, an Episcopal priest and the principal of the Sainte Croix School in Léogâne, which now is operating in tents provided as part of the ACT Alliance response.

"While trauma has decreased among some people, for others, there has been no improvement at all," he said. "People are still traumatized. I see it in the daily life of the people. They are very nervous." Tens of thousands cope with the difficulty of adjusting to the realities of lost family members or of suffering physical handicaps or mental problems.

Trauma has done more than simply exacerbate problems that existed in Haiti before the earthquake – problems ranging from poverty to hunger, from over-crowdedness in Port-au-Prince to poor infrastructure. These long-standing social ills are simply now fully exposed, as if stripped bare in the devastation of the earthquake.

"We are all frustrated by the apparent lack of speedy recovery for Haiti," said Aaron Tate, the Haiti earthquake response coordinator for ACT member Church World Service, noting that there "were a lot of dreams early on that this was an opportunity to build a 'new Haiti' better than the old Haiti.  But the reality is that with such devastation, it is an incredible effort just to rebuild at all."

Tate said that a key commitment by ACT members – of empowering Haitians to rebuild Haiti – remains firm, but still poses a challenge.

"Our Haitian partners faced great loss themselves; they lost buildings, family members, their own homes.  Still, they are working hard and going far beyond what we could reasonably expect of them to provide emergency relief and recovery, but they do so against great odds."

"It seems that the largest and most critical issues, especially housing in Port-au-Prince, have been too big for anyone to address," he said. "But on a smaller scale, you do see successes by NGOs like ACT Alliance members."

You do. While the frustrations and challenges posed in Haiti are perhaps most easily witnessed in Port-au-Prince, where as many as a third of the nation's nearly 10-million people lived before the calamity, progress is evident in pockets of the capital, as well as in other cities affected by quake.

In the coastal city of Jacmel, progress and energy are palpable. There, ACT member Diakonie Katastrofenhilfe is rehabilitating 300 houses, one of them being the home of Rosemond Jean Louis, 48, and his family of four. The work included repairs to the structure's porch and rear, as well as a new roof. "I feel more secure now," Louis said of the home in which he has always lived.

Elsewhere in Jacmel, other Diakonie-sponsored house repairs are underway. Sainnac St. Fleur, a construction foreman, said residents of Jacmel are united in purpose and working hard to see the one-time French colonial city up and repaired. "What we're doing is very important," St. Fleur said. "We have many, many people in need."

The limited successes in Jacmel, of course, have to be seen in the context of the calamity of 12 January and the weight of history that has produced the problems of food insecurity, poverty, lack of adequate water and housing.

Sylvia Raulo, outgoing country representative for the Lutheran World Federation in Haiti and incoming country representative in Haiti for Norwegian Church Aid, another ACT Alliance member, said the achievements of the international humanitarian community in the first six months since 12 January are perhaps the minimum that could be hoped for -- "the things we haven't heard about. There were not political riots, there was not a major food crisis, there was no major outbreak of major diseases."

"It's an achievement that we've managed to get the horror scenarios out of the picture," she said. "So far, so good."

So far.

(This is the first of a series of stories by ACT communicator Chris Herlinger that will appear in coming weeks focusing on the first six months of ACT Alliance recovery work in Haiti.)


Seeds to restart food production

n the early morning sunshine in the commune of Petit Gôave, 68km southwest of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, hundreds of people wait. A distribution of seeds by ACT Alliance will take place any minute.

People have come from mountainous areas surrounding Petit Goâve, areas significantly hit by the earthquake. Most arrived in Petit Goâve hours ago.

The Lutheran World Federation, an ACT member, is distributing maize and bean seeds to the most vulnerable people in the area - the elderly, people from single parent households or families with many children. They are all members of a farmers' association and were selected by that association to receive seeds, LWF agronomist Plancher Rolnick says.

Seeds will give crop in late summer

When distribution starts, people are called by name to come forward in groups of three. One group is given 50kg of beans, which is to be shared among three families, and 50kg of maize for nine families.

Yvès Raymond, a young farmer from the mountains, is among the first to get seeds. At noon, he leaves for home. "I left home by midnight and arrived here at 5am,” he says. After queuing for several hours, he now has four measures of bean seeds and one of maize. He faces a long walk home under the blazing sunshine.

Like everyone else, Yvès Raymond will plant his seeds in June after the heavy rains. In this way, he will be able to harvest the crop in August-September.

Joseph Galnave Norre, coordinator of a farmers’ association, says that for most people the crop will only cover the needs of their families. ”Those who get some surplus sell it at the market. Some people even go to Port-au-Prince to get a better price.”

Food production needs to be kept going

Haiti’s food security situation was fragile long before the earthquake. Decades of insufficient food production left Haitians highly dependent on imports. Since the earthquake an influx of people from Port-au-Prince to rural areas has meant rural dwellers are forced to share their food with those who have fled the capital. Sixty percent of the population lives in rural areas and under the poverty line of less than two dollars a day. Keeping food production going is extremely important for farmers.

In Petit Goâve, people are relieved to get the seeds from ACT. ”My parents do not have jobs at the moment, so we have had to find other ways to survive,” Lidor Roseline, a 16-year-old girl says.

The family with four children is living in a temporary shelter as the family home was damaged in the earthquake. The maize and bean seeds given by ACT are used only for subsistence, as are the other vegetables the family grows.

Seed distribution "will produce a good harvest”

In rural areas, many farmers lack cash to buy seeds and food prices have already gone up since the earthquake. ”Seed distribution is very welcome here, since it will give people a good harvest,” Joseph Galnave Norre, from a farmers’ association, says.

Aid work is not always trouble-free. The distribution was initially planned to take place a week earlier but problems with logistics forced its postponement.

People who arrived in Petit Goâve in vain last week are now worried that there won’t be enough seeds for everybody today. ”This time we made sure that the truck with the seeds was already in place when the distribution was about to start,” Plancher Rolnick says.

By the end of the day, 1300 farmers have received seeds. The last 200 still need to wait until the next morning.

After the distribution, ACT will see that the seeds are shared equally among the designated families. Meanwhile, it will keep distributing other items in different parts of the country as it has done since the earthquake.

By Maria Halava, Port-au-Prince, Haiti May 2010
ACT Alliance

Back to school
Léogâne is raising from the dust. The city was one of the worst hit areas of the January 12 earthquake.  Approximately 80-90 percent of it was destroyed.  Six out of ten schools were totally destroyed. Now 66 out of 184 primary schools have re-opened

Masséd Dimy, a teacher of école Saint Esprit in the city of Darbonne, was working during the earthquake.

”I was having my geography lesson for eleven students while the earth started to quake”, he says.

Mr. Dimy together with his students managed to run out of the school building before it collapsed. All of them survived.

Except for one student, everybody has come back to school. But some of them are still afraid of a new earthquake.

”I felt very stressed afterwards, but now I’m feeling much better. My only fear is that there will be a new earthquake which is even stronger than the previous one”, Mr. Dimy tells us. 

Both teachers and students have received psycho-social support to cope with the fears the earthquake caused. Discussions have helped them to understand what happened and to handle their traumas.

Revised curriculums to catch up

With the support from ACT Alliance, five of the largest schools in the areas of Léogâne, Grand Goave and Petit Goave are now up and running in school tents.

In école Saint-Esprit, seven tents put up in the school playground started operating three weeks ago and are now hosting several hundred students from kindergarten to secondary school, with more returning to school each day.

”Before the earthquake, there were approximately 600-700 students in the school, Country Coordinator David Korpela from ACT member Finn Church Aid says. 

Some people have moved away from the area and some students are still afraid of coming back to school.

”When school feeding programs start, we expect the amount of students to increase to over 1000”, he continues.

Tents are often divided in two parts with tarps and sheets. One tent can host up to 80 students. As the number of students increases, the school facilities will be used in multiple shifts to accommodate all the students.

Primary school teacher Pierre Mesgline is teaching 34 children of six or seven years old.

”Classes start at seven o’clock in the morning. Since we finish one hour earlier than usual, we have been forced to make some changes to the curriculum”, she tells.

Reconstruction will start soon

Clearing of rubble of the totally damaged school building is going on in the courtyard of école Sainte Croix in Léogâne.

Being one of the few schools now operating again in the area, école Sainte Croix is open to all children in the area, also taking in students from surrounding schools that were destroyed. 

”Before the school started operating on April 5th, we had a meeting with parents and made a list of all students who would attend”, Jean Baptiste Emmanuelle from the Episcopal Church says.

When new students arrive, they will be added to the list.

Ecole Sainte Croix is still missing lots of materials, such as tables, chairs and blackboards that were destroyed in the earthquake. Replacement furniture has been ordered from a local contractor and will be distibuted this week. School kits and teacher kits donated by Unicef have already arrived and are being distributed to teachers and students.

The biggest concern, though, seems to be the heat which cannot be avoided at this time of the year. Especially in May the temperatures start rising high. Shade netting has been installed to alleviate the heat but students will have to try and study through some of the hot summer months to catch up with their peers in the rest of the country.

The aim of the Lutheran World Federation and Finn Church Aid, both members of ACT, is to have all the 30 target schools fully operational with access to clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and a school feeding programme within the next six months. After this period, the activities will shift towards permanent reconstruction.

In June-July they will start building a model school for approval by the Ministry of Education in Haiti. Eventually, the aim is to reconstruct all 30 schools in the area, and maybe build even more.

By Maria Halava, Port-au-Prince, Haiti May 2010
ACT Alliance

Haiti, two months after the quake

By Greg Jackson media officer for Christian World Service.

In the foyer of our Pétionville guest house you could hear the hymns, prayers and song of locals and aid workers marking two months since the January 12 earthquake.

I wanted to be with them but duty called across town for the last day of the visit of the ACT Alliance general secretary, John Nduna, to Haiti. As his seconded media support and advice officer I had just gone through a whirlwind tour of post quake Haiti taking in everything from refugee camps through to the diplomatic circuit.

The two month ceremonies took place on the tail end of our trip.

People took time out to reflect on their losses, their pain, their hope and what they need for the still stunningly unclear future.  You could feel the palpable sense of loss, even as the sounds of demolition and construction rang out in our upmarket neighbourhood. In what passed for rush hour Pétionville the normal mobile Russian roulette combat of four wheel drives, creaking trucks and crammed multicolour mini buses slowed down by 30 minutes as people milled around in search of meaning.

While I waited I thought of the hundreds of people we had met that week who had their lives catastrophically upended by the earthquake. Death at least had been democratic in this profoundly unfair society. The Prime Minister’s staff told us that 70 key central Government staff had died on the quake night while everywhere you met people without spouses, children or kin.

I thought of the educated artist I had met in a Jacmel camp who basically just wanted someone from  outside Haiti to hear his confusion and bemusement at ending up just another refugee face for the cameras. He showed me the eight latrines for 2000 people in what was rated as one of the “good” refugee camps. In the day the temperature was hovering in the low 30’s."I would like to emigrate, but to where and with what”, he said less in despair, more in puzzlement that it had come to this.

I thought of the young guest house worker who had helped me heft around tables and chairs to make a work station. How when he had worked out from the unusual foreigner who shared in physical work that I was after stories of the average Haitian surprised both of us by starting to cry.
“Nobody ever tells our stories,’’ he said.

Then there was the guesthouse manager, Joanna, an educated American raised Haitian American who pre quake was a serial entrepreneur who came home to start up a restaurant. The night of the quake was meant to be the last dry run before the restaurant opened. It never did, she was ruined financially but ended the 24 hours as the adopted mother of baby Moses who was given to her by his birth mother before she died of her injuries.

From there my thoughts wondered to all the mothers in the filthy camps managing to wash their clothes and in what is almost a metaphor for Haiti hanging them to dry on barbed wire.

Beauty and tragedy, cheek to cheek, that’s one of the truly amazing features of Haiti two months after the quake.  Maybe it was always so.  There is lightness, laughter and love. There is darkness, death and loss.

In some odd way post the quake and the emotional adoption of Haiti by the world it has also become the world writ large.  Two months on the challenge will be to turn that sense of world community and support into long term help that gives Haiti a chance to start anew.

Having met Haiti’s human face, from high to low, rich to poor the challenge and mystery is working out how well any other people would do faced with this Biblical scale of destruction.  It’s a riddle I hope I never get to see solved at home.


Arts Help Haitian Children Heal
She’s small, but her smile easily lights up a room. Eight-year-old Rosedaline Revolis grins as she plays the pandeiro (tambourine) for capoeira, a martial-arts inspired dance native to Brazil that is now helping Haitian children cope with the changes in their lives since the January 12 earthquake.

The capoeira training is part of a comprehensive psychosocial program by Viva Rio, a partner organization of ACT Alliance member Norwegian Church Aid. Kay Nou, the space formerly used as Viva Rio’s community center in Port-au-Prince’s downtrodden Bel Air neighborhood, is now a tent encampment housing about 1600 people. Children living in Kay Nou are benefiting from daily opportunities to learn creative endeavors like art, music and dancing, helping them deal with the stress of being displaced.

The program existed prior to the earthquake, says Viva Rio staffer Aila Machado, who has worked with the Haiti program since last year. Since 2006, Viva Rio has focused on urban development in the beleaguered Bel Air neighborhood, providing community services and working to diminish street violence. After January 12, 2010, their focus shifted to providing for the immediate needs of affected people in the neighborhood, including providing safe and constructive activities for children.

Such activities serve several purposes, explains Anna Oliver, an experienced relief officer with NCA. They engage the children immediately and give them a rare but much-needed break from the trauma, shock and loss all around.

Stealing children
“At the same time, it is a way of offering the children a degree of protection,” she adds. After the earthquake, many experts predicted a dramatic increase in illegal trafficking of children. “Engaging and registering the children in our activities – even providing them with small wrist bands – is one important way we can help protect the children from such threats,” Oliver explains.

“This helps the children to not occupy their minds on this situation,” says Musset Payant, a Haitian painter who teaches art to children as part of Viva Rio’s program. “For the time they are here, they forget everything. In this room, they are completely relaxed and they just fly.”

Help to help ourselves
The children eagerly watch as Payant begins to draw a fish on the chalkboard in front of the room.  Using donated materials, they too begin to sketch, intently focused on their work.

“What happened to us in this country caused people all over the world to come and help us,” Payant adds, “But this helps us to help ourselves.”

On the other side of the camp, capoeira lessons are starting. Viva Rio has been teaching capoeira to children here for more than a year, but since the earthquake, the number of children in the program has grown by more than 100. In the shell of a building that locals say gang members used to use for hiding kidnap victims, about 30 children remove their shoes and sit on a rug in front of a line of musicians for the morning class. The music is key to capoeira, and the morning session focuses just on the songs, while the afternoon session teaches the components of the martial-arts based dance.

Children are fragile
“Children and adults are not the same,” says Rodney Jean Marc, one of eight assistants who help lead the classes. He has studied capoeira with Viva Rio since 2008. “Adults are used to hardship and difficulty but children are fragile . . . Capoeira helps them get the stress out.”

The songs are taught in Portuguese, and the teachers then explain them in Creole. The songs’ themes are about living in peace and respecting others – things that can be challenging for children in the best of situations, but especially difficult in the trying circumstances in which these kids now find themselves.

The art of capoeira
After about a half hour of practicing the songs, the children stand up and make a circle around the rug – it’s time for the teachers to demonstrate the art of capoiera. The pulsating beat of the music creates a frenetic energy as the masters take to the rug and engage in capoeira play – a physical and acrobatic dance performed either solo or in pairs. When danced with a partner, capoeira resembles a sparring match, but without actual physical contact.

Their acrobatics delight the children; their claps and cheers and the sheer joy on their faces belie the difficulty of their situation. For a little while, at least, they are able to just be children.

“I like it because doing capoeira gives me courage and strength,” little Rosedaline says. “It helps me a lot.”

Emily Sollie, ACT Alliance 2/03/2010

CWS supports health care in Haiti
ACT Alliance members in Port-au-Prince continue to support medical care for Haiti’s most vulnerable. 

As it had done long before January 12, ACT Alliance is caring for the children.  Traumatized, ill and suffering loss of limbs, hundreds of children need round-the-clock care.

At Port-au-Prince’s Aprosifa malnutrition clinic, which is supported by ACT, staff feed 15-20 children and their mothers every day.   The dedication of Antonine St Quitte Dimanche, who has worked at the clinic 12 years, has not diminished since the earthquake.  She continues to make sure the children get enriched milk, spinach, beans and rice every day.  The most severely malnourished are given plumpy nuts, a specially formulated paste full of essential vitamins and minerals.

But she fears for the future of these children. “There are so many children now without parents and those whose parents survived now have no means of earning a living.”

Elsewhere in Port-au-Prince, another children’s malnutrition hospital is being kept open with ACT support.  But now it is running as an emergency clinic as injured men, women and children arrive daily.  The clinic has 100 beds but 140 patients.  ACT has supplied two large tents for those recovering from surgery.

One of the younger patients, six-year-old Kevine Scemoaes is about to have surgery on a badly injured foot.  He has a high temperature but is in a good mood as he tells his story.  Walking through the streets of Haiti, the earthquake toppled a wall, burying him.  He wriggled free but found he couldn’t walk because of his injured leg.  Kevine crawled to the middle of the street and cried for help until he was brought to the hospital.

The level of treatment at the hospital is high, even as surgery goes on around the clock.  Most of the surgeons are Italian or American.  Most cases are bone fractures, and able to be treated.  The hospital is treating around 40 cases of complex fractures of the upper leg.

ACT Alliance 27/01/10

Situation Update

The situation continues to be desperate for the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Material aid is slowly reaching them but, due to the lack of data and weak government coordination, the organization and distribution of aid is still a challenge. Some incidents of fighting for aid have been registered but they are mostly due to lack of proper organization of the distribution.

The Government has declared the search and rescue phase over.  Still people continue trying to find loved ones by scratching into the rubble with rudimentary tools. Otherwise, some normality is coming back to the country for the privileged ones unaffected by the earthquake.  Gas stations and supermarkets are reopening and fuel and food are now available.

It is estimated that more than 130,000 people have moved from Port-au-Prince to the rural areas and provincial cities (some very vulnerable such as Gonaives) with the consequent negative impacts on the precarious economy in these areas. Fortunately, no reports of communicable disease outbreaks have been registered. The two big challenges now are to scale up the relief operation and the clean up of the rubble.  The death toll is now at least 150,000 people.

ACT Alliance 25/01/10

Clean water from filthy

A water purification system, with pipes, filters and pumps that was brought from freezing cold Norway to burning hot Haiti, is providing 10,000 homeless Haitians with crystal clear drinking water. The ACT Alliance has brought in specialist water and sanitation facilities, desperately needed in earthquake-hit Haiti. The "water factory" is based in the Belair neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. The water coming from these taps is the first clean water these people have had since the earthquake.

More equipment has been sent to homeless families in Jacmel, on Haiti's southern coast where the ACT Alliance is distributing tonnes of relief materials including four million water purification tablets, jerrycans, blankets and enough healthcare kits to last 10,000 people three months.   The ACT Alliance is also involved in psycho-social treatment of the traumatized population.

ACT Alliance 23/01/10

Urgent needs outside Port-au-Prince
CWS partners are focusing on communities outside Port-au-Prince, where the damage has been greater but little help has been received.  One local group has already arranged the evacuation of severely injured survivors. Blankets, jerry cans, water purifiers, medical supplies (wheelchairs, crutches, bandages), and hygiene kits (containing towel, washcloth, comb, nail clippers, soap, toothbrush, plasters) are going to Leogane, Petit Goave, Jacmel and Miragoane as well as assistance in Jimani, Dominican Republic. Tent hospitals have been set up on the Dominican Republic at Jimani, on the border.  ACT Alliance members are now sending funds for emergency first aid and healthcare for injured refugees.  Hospitals in Jimaní are attending to hundreds wounded and will be soon overwhelmed. Churches have offered to act as hospital wings.


ACT Alliance support reaching Haiti
In the chaos of aid distribution, CWS’s global partner, ACT Alliance, is managing to get food, temporary shelter, water cleaning materials and expertise to the Haitian capital. 

Prospery Raymond, country manager for ACT Alliance member Christian Aid, reports he is concerned there may not otherwise be enough food in the country to last more than a few days.

The streets are still thronged with homeless people, walking for hours to find food and water.  As well as widespread destruction of homes, schools and other buildings, major damage has been done to key water, electricity and road systems.   Port-au-Prince’s heavily congested airport is finally allowing some aid to get through, however it comes as Haitians turn on each other, increasingly desperate for food and water. 

ACT Alliance is one of the largest relief organisations working in Haiti. In a January 17 teleconference members reported on progress to date: 

•    Christian Aid has started distributing food and tents, hygiene kits, blankets, jerry cans and water purifiers to 15,000 people in eight communities, targeting areas getting little help from other agencies.  It has also sent in a medical team through a specialist healthcare organisation.  CA hopes to source food from markets in Haiti if possible, but all other items will definitely need to come in from outside. The team in Haiti is co-ordinating with colleagues in the Dominican Republic to source materials there where possible.
•    Lutheran World Federation is constructing a camp for ACT members at its compound, with additional space for member staff.  Cooking facilities are provided, and Internet connection is good.  Water supply is problematic.  LWF plans to recruit supplementary staff.   
•    Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe has programmed delivery of 15 tonnes of food relief together with Caritas Germany.
•    Lutheran World Relief plans to send a shipment of food products.
•    Church World Service and Christian Aid offices are ready to serve as a base for receiving emergency items.  ACT Alliance member staff in St Domingo are on the way to Haiti. 
•    Norwegian Church Aid is prioritizing water sanitation equipment and psychosocial work.  It has sent a team of water engineers, a communicator and a logistician.  Two Norwegian advisors with expertise in gender and childrens’ protection are also going.
ACT members report that buildings remain very fragile and continue to collapse.   Rain has compounded the situation of the million people without shelter.  The border with the Dominican Republic remains insecure.  Health risks of contagious diseases are getting serious. Other towns are also badly affected and many areas outside Port-au-Prince remain unexplored.  A number of staff from ACT members in the country remain unaccounted for.   

The United Nations has launched an appeal for $562m intended to help three million people for six months.  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon describes the situation as one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades and implored for calm in the beleaguered capital.  The number of dead is still unknown, with estimates ranging from 50,000 to 200,000, the BBC reports.

ACT Alliance 19/01/10
 No-one immune from the devastation

The earthquake has affected every part of society, including the people normally in charge of vital services, CWS partner, Christian Aid reports. The UN chain of command was badly hit by the loss of staff, although MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) started collecting dead bodies from the streets on Friday. The Government had already started putting bodies into mass graves. Some people in Port-au-Prince have lost all their money because it is in their collapsed homes.

Phones have not been working although Irish telephone company, Digicel, said that it has got its network going again and that calls were free, to allow people to call their families and let them know they are alive.

There has been a lot of social solidarity, with people helping rescue each other from the rubble. Christian Aid's country manager, Prospery Raymond, was pulled from the wreckage of his office by a passerby. A large number of people, perhaps 100,000, have left the city to stay with friends and family in other parts of the country.

Prospery has neighbours staying in his front yard. Both he and ACT communicator Sarah Wilson slept in cars last night while others are sleeping in tents, too afraid aftershocks will cause buildings to collapse further. Aftershocks are still occurring and people in the DKH office fled the building yesterday when one occurred. Fortunately, no more damage occurred.

There are also reports that the Dominican Republic has closed its border with Haiti.

ACT International 19/1/10

A journey to Port-au-Prince
ACT Alliance’s Sarah Wilson describes the tough journey to Port-au-Prince, highlighting the problems all aid agencies share moving to and from the disaster area.  She Skyped from an NGO office in Port-au-Prince, which many people are sharing. The office lacks enough computers for everyone but does have electricity.

Sarah reached Port-au-Prince on Friday morning local time, having earlier flown out from Santo Domingo only for the plane to turn around and return because it was unable to land.  There was chaos at the airport in Port-au-Prince. The air traffic control tower was damaged and the US military had brought in radar equipment as a substitute.

Sarah and her fellow passengers rushed off the plane and had to walk down the runway as other planes were trying to land. Normal airport safety procedures had been abandoned. As soon as the luggage was unloaded, the plane had to take off again to make way for others landing.

In Port-au-Prince, everything is in short supply, including petrol and food. Supermarkets are open but it is almost impossible to get near the food, which people are fighting for. On Friday, Sarah and Christian Aid country manager Prospery Raymond each had one potato for supper. They had eggs and bread for breakfast today.

Shortages are even affecting the Dominican Republic now, where supplies of tents and water purification equipment are running low. CWS is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

ACT Alliance 19/01/10
Healing the traumatised

Thousands of people in Port-au-Prince - injured,hungry and desperate - have spent days outdoor in the demolished apital of Haiti without food or shelter. Desperate Haitians have blocked streets with corpses in anger. Food is stocking up at the irport, but has not yet been distributed. A great deal of the population is traumatized, and ACT Alliance is now sending in
experts on psycho-social support.

The psycho-social specialists will assist the population of Haiti to get going in their difficult state of life, support them n getting together and be able to talk and process their traumatic experiences. ACT Alliance, a global coalition of church ased humanitarian agencies, has long experience in psycho-social work under emergencies.

Local ACT field workers will be trained in psycho-social activities. Maria Lundberg, head of the emergency unit of ACT member Church of Sweden, is responsible for the ACT psycho-social activities.  “We can’t heal a whole city”, Lundberg says, “but we ave an approach to lead people through harsh difficulties.” This kind of support has to be done closely together with the affected
Haitian community, who knows best about the needs and resources among themselves. To be enabled to support each other and take a constructive part in the rehabilitation is an important step forward in such a chaotic situation.

The ACT Alliance psycho-social project involves the population in community based activities; repairing houses, cleaning treets, rebuilding schools etc. It is a way of imposing hope for the future. “In Haiti we have seen people crying, asking for the eaning of life: Where is God? We will help people to live and deal with these existential questions”, Maria Lundgren says.

Water for 10 000 people
Port-au-Prince is without water. ACT Alliance is sending water-purification equipment that will serve 10,000 people. Clean ater will be hugely important in the coming days to fight the risk of cholera and other water-based diseases. ACT member Norwegian Church Aid is sending an emergency plane packed with 45 tons of water-purification equipment, water istribution systems, water tanks, and pipes and tapping systems.Tools for building latrines are also on board, together with several hundred tents.

ACT International 16/1/01

Port-au-Prince “looks like a war zone”
More than a million people in Haiti’s capital will this evening be without shelter and no immediate prospect of accommodation in camps. Between 60 and 80 percent of the houses in Port-au-Prince were brought down or are uninhabitable by Tuesday’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
In a city that ACT Alliance members say looks like a war zone, hundreds of thousands are roaming the streets looking desperately for relatives and other loved ones.   Rescue and humanitarian operations are complicated because the United Nations is paralysed following the collapse of their building leaving over 100 staff missing.

These are the key points to come out of a teleconference by ACT Alliance members this evening, one of the rare opportunities to receive updates about the earthquake-struck city.  Communications with Port-au-Prince have been unreliable, with Skype and other Internet-based communications providing the only news from Haiti.

ACT member LWF reports their staff have a fortnight’s worth of water, food and fuel for their personal needs but stress that any extra staff need coming to the city need to bring their own tents, food, sleeping bags and cash.  All shops and banks are closed.  Compounding the work is the fact staff – like everyone in Port-au-Prince - are traumatised from the disaster.

ACT members around the world continue the anxious wait for news of missing colleagues.   Staff from Lutheran World Service and UMCOR are among the tens of thousands missing, prompting requests from ACT Alliance for prayers.

ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna said that for the organisations with staff affected, ACT sent its heartfelt concern, solidarity and prayers.  “Let’s hope that those missing will be found alive.”
He has written to the two members and has also sent a letter of condolence to the UN for the 16 UN staff confirmed killed in their building collapse.

From some quarters there has been good news.  Evelyne Margrone, a programme office of ACT member ICCO has been recovered alive from the debris and was taken to Dominican Republic suffering multiple bone fractures and possible internal injuries.  Her grandson was found unhurt.

The earthquake wreaked devastation on Haiti, a country already struggling with the worst poverty in the western hemisphere.   The situation in Port-au-Prince today remains grave.  The BBC reports that rescue teams and medical services are overwhelmed.  Many people are still sleeping outside fearing aftershocks or because homes have been reduced to rubble.  President Rene Preval estimates the death toll could be 50,000, Reuters Alertnet reports.

ACT members reported yesterday that blocked streets continued to make needs assessment visits very difficult.  Many houses in the slums have collapsed, triggered by the shallow nature of the quake.  Little heavy equipment can be found to free trapped survivors, remove rubble and clear streets.  Even shovels are in short supply.

ACT International 15/1/10

People buried alive when houses collapsed
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people were buried alive when a major earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, the capital of impoverished Haiti on Tuesday. The magnitude 7.0 quake sent panic-stricken people into the streets. Offices, hotels, houses and shops collapsed, and people were screaming “Jesus, Jesus”, not knowing where to run. The presidential palace lay in ruins, and many churches have been destroyed. Members of ACT Alliance are already in place, assisting those affected by the earthquake. The ACT Secretariat in Geneva is coordinating the relief operations of its members,
and more details will follow in the coming hours.

The city is without electricity, the telephone network has broken down. The UN headquarter has collapsed. People are sitting in the streets with nowhere to go. The ffice of ACT member Christian Aid was destroyed, but staff were unharmed and are now responding to the emergency.

John Nduna, the General Secretary of ACT Alliance expresses condolences with the affected families and with UN and other organizations that have lost their people in he buildings.

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, also expresses condolences and solidarity with the people of Haiti. “Once again they have xperienced the great burdens of anguish, damage, and death because of a natural atastrcophe. They have already carried many burdens of political instability and poverty,” Fykse Tveit says.

In 2004 more than 3,000 people died because of Hurricane Jeanne which passed over the northwest city of Gonaives.  The same area was hit again in 2008 when four tropical storm systems passed through the region. In 2004 political instability led to the ousting of the President Jean-Baptiste Aristide.


Disaster background 14/1/10

The quake struck 15km southwest of the capital Port-au-Prince just before 5pm on Tuesday 12 January 2010 (Haiti time). The Red Cross estimates the death toll is at least 45,000 - 50,000.  Others report up to 100,000 people have died. Tens of thousands are injured and countless have lost their homes. It is estimated that 60-80% of buildings collapsed in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Even shovels are in short supply.  It is still too early to know the full extent of the damage but given the underlying high level of poverty the need is desperate.

“The reality for many Haitians is that they are already trapped in what is a very harsh form of poverty,’’ said Nick Clarke who visited Haiti in May last year. Haiti is already the poorest country in the Americas, ranking lower than Kenya or Bangladesh on the UN’s human development index. Most people in Port-au-Prince live in flimsy slum housing, so an earthquake of this magnitude is catastrophic.

CWS partners in ACT International are helping with recovery. Outside assistance in the form of extra staff, water, sanitation services, hygiene kits and basic supplies are on their way to help meet the needs of survivors.