The Work Must Go On for Haiti’s Recovery
By David Tereshchuk*
March 12, 2012 — The vast challenge of recovery from 2010’s earthquake is not defeating Haiti’s people – despite all the problems bedeviling that island country, including the extra blows of hurricanes and the outbreak of cholera.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is playing its full part in walking with the Haitians through their process of reconstruction, as everyone works together to rebuild shattered lives and wrecked communities.
Along with the Methodist Church of Haiti (known locally as Eglise Méthodiste d’Haiti or EMH) and with UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission), UMCOR is currently preparing for its next stage of work.
Now that a little over two years have elapsed since the 7.0-magnitude earthquake –and about half of the country’s seemingly endless piles of rubble have been cleared away—UMCOR has been taking stock and developing new, clear plans for its ongoing work. A full complement of UMCOR Haiti staff met in March 2012 for a preliminary planning session to establish an overall framework to inform and guide more detailed strategic planning by the teams in Haiti in 2012.
They were able to report substantial progress in UMCOR’s work so far. That progress includes examples like these:
• 3,000 shelters newly built in Cabaret, Léogáne and Port-au-Prince, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity
• Church-owned schools at Bois Gency, Hyacinthe, St. Martin, Mellier and Petit-Goâve - all rebuilt after being greatly damaged, plus the historic New College Bird campus
• Seeds, tools, livestock, and technical assistance—all provided through the Haiti Emergency Agricultural Assistance Project
• Health-kits and water-filters distributed as part of a comprehensive response to the cholera outbreak, plus a campaign of preventative health education.
The emergency and immediate relief phase that followed the earthquake is clearly over, but many needs remain to be addressed, not least those of hundreds of thousands of Haitians still living in camps.
For the coming months and years, in collaboration with its many partners, UMCOR Haiti is to concentrate on five key areas of work. These areas, for which funds of approximately $18 million are still available thanks to the generosity of United Methodists and others (a sum which can be added to with additional money) will be divided under these headings:
• Improving livelihoods
• Shelter and reconstruction
• Water and sanitation, plus health improvement in general
• Capacity-strengthening, for the Methodist Church of Haiti, local partners, and for UMCOR Haiti itself.
Thodleen Dessources, Haiti Desk Officer for UMCOR, said this initial meeting was a sign of the agency’s “commitment to Haiti’s current recovery and sustainable development processes, and our pledge to seeing these through responsibly, in collaboration with the Haitian people and our partners.”
From a tough starting-point that was fraught with daunting problems, UMCOR in Haiti has, according to Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR’s head of International Disaster Response, developed great strength in what she calls “the longer-term vision.” She said, “I think we’ve established ourselves in a very positive way and made some great partnerships.”
Watch a video on United Methodists work with the Haitian people.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to UMCOR’s website.