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News : Haiti
Haiti 2 years on – 9 Jan 2012
Catherine Carey, a nurse in Dublin, went to Haiti for 12 days with Tearfund’s first-ever medical team in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Here, she writes of the steps being taken by Tearfund to help people recover from the devastation of the 2010 earthquake.
In the hustle and bustle of morning rush hour in Port-au-Prince, children stream out of slums – immaculate in their school uniforms. Women in smart skirts and blouses walk by, carrying baskets of produce on their heads. Surfaceless roads, still featuring piles of earthquake-damage rubble at the side of them, are jammed with four-wheel drives, cars and motorbikes.
Amid the chaos, it’s difficult to get to our destination – a church building where we’ll hold our baby clinic. Tomorrow, we’ll take to the roads again, and by the end of the week, we’ll have completed an exhausting circuit of open spaces, church buildings and temporary camps, where people still live in tents, almost two years since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean country.
At each temporary camp, we’ll begin with the community volunteer making a megaphone announcement to alert people to the fact that the clinic is about to begin. We’ll then offer free antenatal and postnatal advice to mothers, and weigh babies and provide vaccinations to the infants. In the open areas, we’ll hang the weighing scales from the branches of trees!
The daily grind
Life in Haiti is far from easy. It was the poorest country in the western hemisphere, before the earthquake struck. In one of the tented camps, where hundreds of people live under tarpaulin, the Haitians proudly show off their primary school that they’re running in abandoned buses that act as classrooms. There are few books; the teachers are volunteers. But, despite all this, children are learning to read and write.
For those fortunate enough to have a job, work usually starts at 7am and runs to 7pm, six days a week. And the typical wage packet for these long hours is just $5 per day – $30 for the whole week.
As a member of the 11-strong medical team from Tearfund, I spent the time attached to Kings Hospital, supported by Tearfund partner World Relief. World Relief have used post-earthquake funding from Tearfund to support a number of people with start-up business loans. Among those to benefit are community volunteers Kathleen and Antoinette, who I had the privilege of meeting one day. Kathleen has used her $200 grant to produce peanut butter from peanuts and this helps her support her children and younger siblings. Meanwhile, Antoinette sells charcoal for fuel. Kathleen and Antoinette lost so much in the earthquake, yet they getting on with their lives and volunteering to work in their community by helping at the clinics and providing health education classes.
Isolated but not alone
On one of the last days before I came home, I left my usual nursing routine in Port-au-Prince and made the three-hour, 25km journey along a windy highway to the highland village of Leogane, where the epicentre of the earthquake was. From there, I made a 45-minutes journey in a jeep, followed by a hike through a riverbed and up a dirt track, to reach a stream that is being diverted by Tearfund to provide clean water for the village.
I met some local people who were provided with new homes, and I saw a transitional school that has been built by Tearfund. Because of the village’s isolated position, Tearfund has been the only organisation to work there. All the building supplies have been carried by hand, up the mountain, by the local people.
Priscilla is a mother whose home was destroyed in the earthquake. With immense pride, she showed me round the two-room shelter that had been built for her family by Tearfund. One of the most moving moments of my trip was when I held hands with Priscilla and we prayed together – two mothers from different countries sharing in God’s love.
Children’s health clubs in Haiti – 11 Jan 2011
Helping children cope with the aftermath of the disaster has been an important part of Tearfund’s work.
More than 70 children’s clubs are educating them about good hygiene, a vital consideration in a post-quake environment where water and sanitation infrastructure is badly damaged and the risk of disease is high, as the recent cholera outbreak has shown.
The clubs are teaching children about healthy everyday practices, such as hand washing, and offer a safe but fun environment for learning. They also go some way to helping youngsters find a sense of normality amid the chaos of the earthquake aftermath, as many schools were not spared the devastating impact of the disaster.
Sylvia Fleurant, 34, says her five-year-old son Anderson has benefited hugely from the children’s club in their area: ‘It’s changed him,’ she says. _‘Before I couldn’t do things with him but now he teaches us what to do. I would like to thank Tearfund and their supporters because I know a lot of places haven’t received any help.
Olive Louise-Jean, who runs the club that Anderson attends, said, ‘Awareness is the best thing about this programme because it has changed this community. It’s helping to reduce the cases of cholera.’
Teacher Jean Francoise says the clubs are helping to revive the lives of children: ‘For so many there has been only sadness and we want to bring joy to their lives while teaching them what they need to know.’
‘When I started working with Tearfund I managed their health programme in Darfur, Sudan. Our children’s health clubs halved the malaria and diarrhoea rates and had a dramatic impact on children’s psychological health.’ says Reuben Coulter, Chief Executive of Tearfund Ireland, ‘Helping children cope with disaster and prepare for the future is vital.’
Haiti: One Year On – 3 Jan 2011
It’s one year since a massive earthquake devastated the Caribbean island of Haiti on 12 January, 2010. Tearfund’s partners and Disaster Management Team continue to work tirelessly to bring hope and rebuild lives.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of supporters across Ireland more than €160,000 was raised. With these funds, Tearfund provided thousands of emergency kits to families with plastic tarpaulin for shelter, plus food, cooking utensils and hygiene kits. And we’ve put in place long-term programmes to help people rebuild their lives – working alongside local churches and partner organisations to rebuild schools and homes, provide small grants for businesses to be re-established, and provide trauma counselling and spiritual support to people at a very low ebb.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti we have created a short film and prayers to use in church service or community group.
Download resources here Haiti Anniversary Powerpoint
Murielle is still grieving. She lost her husband in the earthquake. Tearfund partner Aclam provided emergency shelter and food to Murielle, and they also gave her a €80 grant so she could set up a small business. She sells cosmetics and other small household items in the front porch of her home. The profit she makes means she can still send her children to school. But she is finding a way through her pain – and that is because Tearfund is there for her. She has a lifeline in the form of Aclam’s church volunteer François – who drops in on her at least twice a week, to chat with her, and encourage her in her faith.
In addition to counselling and business grants and all the other ways in which Tearfund’s five partner organisations are reaching out to families, Tearfund has sent in a relief team of trained and experienced specialists. An Irish team will be visiting Haiti in November 2011 to provide training to local health professionals. If you are a health professional and are interested in joining us then learn more here.
Tearfund are also building 500 new homes across a hillside area that suffered 90% destruction in the earthquake. The new homes have strong foundations, and are built to withstand future disasters such as another earthquake or a hurricane. So this is part of Tearfund’s policy to protect disaster-prone areas by building back better.
Cash for work: kick starting Haiti’s economy – 8 Apr 2010
Extract from Tearfund aid workers blog:
I moved quickly out of the way as the young man swung a wheelbarrow of rocks around me, making his way from a pile of rubble to the workmen behind me.
Tearfund is paying for a road to be constructed, linking two remote villages in the hills behind Leogane, west of Port-au-Prince. The rocks pack down on top of a clay road, making it considerably more durable during the wet season ahead. Donkeys walk along the road, carrying local produce in one direction to the rural market, and consumer goods in the other back to a remote village.
To be precise, Tearfund is not so much paying for a road as injecting cash into a starved local economy where markets fractured and collapsed along with people’s houses and assets after the earthquake. Each adult worker receives a wage in exchange for a week’s work; the fact that a road is built means everyone benefits. Another benefit is that creating roads from rubble is a great way to clear rubble from sites where new buildings need to go up, not to mention the benefits of bringing people together on a constructive project after such a tragedy.
People who have experienced injuries and are physically unable to work have a wage set aside for them so they are not excluded.
These highland communities were poor before the earthquake. Now, their houses, schools and churches lie in ruins and they are paying more for their basic goods after prices shot up on January 12th – the day of the earthquake.
Many agencies use ‘cash for work’ schemes, like Tearfund’s road building project, to kick-start the economy and create jobs where employment has collapsed.
Rather than make assumptions about what people need, this type of project enables families to make their own choices about how aid money is spent. Studies show that people typically spend the money wisely, for example on housing repairs, education fees or replacing household equipment and essential farm tools. There’s no way that Tearfund could have known the individual needs of each family, or provided for them in the short time since the earthquake, so working like this means each family can make sure their urgent needs are met.
It helps people help themselves.
Haiti: More than €160,000 raised – 31 Mar 2010
Generous Irish supporters have raised more than €160,000 for Haiti earthquake survivors. Some people have held fundraising concerts, others have gone on a sponsored fast and many people have helped raise awareness through their churches and schools. Because of this financial support thousands of families who had not received any aid in Haiti’s earthquake shattered capital are now receiving help from Tearfund staff and partners. More details of their work can be found here. Tearfund in the UK have raised more than €6 million which will address the immediate needs of the people and the longer term reconstruction.
Coping with loss
Getting a handle on the psychological pain caused by the disaster is not so easy but increasingly it is becoming evident. Virtually all survivors can testify to knowing a family member, friend or neighbour who died in the 12 January quake and are therefore carrying the pain of their loss. Add to that turbulent mix the awful hardship in the aftermath of the tremors – no food, water, shelter or medical help, plus lawlessness – and you have the conditions for lasting mental scarring.
A Haitian pastor’s story
One local pastor who has been in touch with Tearfund’s team responding in Haiti summed it up as follows:
‘I can tell you life is very difficult for us nowadays,’ he said. ‘It is really hard to talk and think about the night of 12 January, 2010. It was 4:50pm when this long night began with a strange phenomenon that no one understands.’ The pastor said, ‘Since 12 January, we sleep and live right in the street, without a tent. Right now, my wife and daughter have colds and my daughter has diarrhoea due to bad water. In spite of all, we can claim God is good all the time.’
Long term development
With more than €2 million raised by Tearfund supporters for Haiti, we’re currently responding to the immediate physical needs of thousands of Haitians. We’re also looking to the long term and are drawing up plans to rebuild lives, a process that will be measured in years rather than months. Standing alongside local churches, we’ll be there to help survivors come to terms with earthquake’s psychological, emotional and spiritual legacies.
‘We want to build back better‘ says Reuben Coulter, Chief Executive of Tearfund Ireland ‘There is a real danger if reconstruction is rushed that it will be done badly. If we plan well now and help support our Haitian partners to get back on their feet then we will see sustainable transformation.’
Most of the immediate needs have been met but there is still a need to finance the reconstruction. Donate now online here or by credit card by contacting Christine in our office – 01 878 3200 or email@example.com or post a cheque to; Tearfund Ireland, 5-7 Upper O Connell Street, Dublin 1.
Churches feed the hungry in Haiti – 21 Jan 2010
Hot meals comprising rice, beans and porridge are being served to 1,400 vulnerable people daily by World Relief (Tearfund partner) staff alongside volunteers from local congregations. World Relief, which has been working in the Caribbean country for 15 years, is using its close links with local congregations to mobilise manpower for the relief effort. They are planning to launch more feeding centres, including two in the badly affected areas of Leogan and Jacmel, which have received little emergency aid. World Relief staff are also working to boost desperately needed water supplies by drilling bore holes and installing water pumps.
Meanwhile World Relief medical staff continue to provide treatment to the injured at its 300-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince. It’s one of the few centres able to treat people and has three operating theatres working around the clock.
But it desperately needs more medicines such as antibiotics and painkillers, according to Dr Hubert Morquette, World Relief’s country director for Haiti, who has been treating people himself.
Prayer is also needed. Dr Morquette said, ‘Please continue to keep us in your prayers as our patients experience both physical and psychological trauma.’ Those who’ve escaped injury are also in dire need of aid support. A Tearfund team of disaster response experts has visited a camp run by another Tearfund partner in the district of Delmas, in Port-au-Prince, which is looking after 2,000 people, while another camp had 10,000 residents.
As rescue efforts to recover people trapped in toppled buildings continue, there are small signs of normal everyday life restarting in Port-au-Prince. Jean Claude Cerin, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Haiti, said, ‘Marketplaces are selling basic goods and merchants are back on the streets. ‘Banks are planning to start opening again sometime this week as soon as they can put together a security system to protect them. ‘A few gas stations are reopening and one can observe long lines of vehicles waiting to fill up.’ There are also signs that the Haitian government is attempting to play a bigger role in the earthquake response effort, currently being led by the UN and the US. ‘Haitians are crying for some leadership wherever it comes from,’ said Jean Claude.
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Donate now online here or by credit card by contacting Christine in our office – 01 878 3200.