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Answers to your questions

On the third anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, an MCC photographer and writer visited our projects there. We asked you what questions you had about Haiti and our work. Here are some of the answers to the most common questions.

Jared Thomas Yoder Stoltzfus asked: 

I'm wondering if/how MCC is empowering locals as opposed to simply providing aid? Are you working with any local nonprofits and also addressing underlying poverty, education, hunger issues? 

MCC Haiti works predominantly with Haitian organizations in its earthquake response. Even the initial distributions of relief kits, hygiene kits and locally bought food were coordinated and distributed by Haitians. However, MCC stopped food-distributions after the immediate need had passed, and focused on carrying out middle- to long-term projects that address the ongoing and underlying issues you identified. MCC Haiti also has two public policy analysts who work with Haitian civil society organizations that advocate with Haitian and international governments for food security, adequate housing and human rights. In addition, MCC Haiti works through partners who are empowering Haitians to develop livelihoods, to build more safely, to protect clean water supplies and to develop agricultural organizations. 

Darin Beemer asked: 

James Louis, MCC Haiti engineer, and Jean Jacques Tileon, SKDE project coordinator, walk through the almost-finished housing project that they have worked on together in Cabaret, Haiti. This spring, 100 families whose houses were destroyed in the earthquake will move into the sturdy, two-bedroom homes. Many of the boss masons who worked on this 50-duplex project learned about earthquake-resistant building techniques from MCC engineers who have worked in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. The project was inspired and coordinated by SKDE, the Haitian Kreyol acronym for the Christian Center for Integrated Development, and supported by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and MCC.

As I understand it, many of the homes ruined by the earthquakes were made of concrete which quickly collapsed and killed thousands. Are houses being rebuilt with concrete and, if so, are they reinforced or built with other material so it doesn't happen again?

Hazard resistant standards have been used in all MCC projects, according to MCC’s engineer Johnny Louis. Good quality cement is used and mixed properly, and quality rebar is used to reinforce the cement. MCC engineers supervise and inspect the projects.  Since the earthquake, engineers who work with MCC Haiti have trained more than 600 people in hazard-resistant construction. Overall, Louis said, most nongovernmental organizations(NGOs) are using quality building techniques. The Haitian government, with support from NGOs, also released a book about quality construction that MCC uses to help educate others.  

Jeremy John Pettitt asked: 

I was just curious, does MCC have opportunity to connect with and/or work alongside any of the organizations or hospitals that Paul Farmer founded in Haiti? It is really amazing how much this one doctor has accomplished to help out the extremely poor people in rural Haiti to receive free medical services. Two great organizations working together, MCC and Paul Farmer's could do a lot of good What do you think?

Kurt Hildebrand, an MCC Haiti representative, said: "The organizations and hospitals that Paul Farmer founded are indeed doing incredible work in Haiti, helping to make big steps forward in developing the health infrastructure in the country, including a teaching hospital that is near our agroforestry program. We are grateful that some of the people we serve benefit from that. MCC Haiti looks predominantly for Haitian partners who are Haitian led and tend to be in greater need of collaboration."

Josh Bazuin asked: 

How is MCC and its partners trying to find and serve people who can often be invisible after a disaster, such as the elderly, the disabled, or child-headed households? In a related question: which types of people are invisible or marginalized in Haiti?

Josh, on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 we visited a partner, Pax Christi Ayiti in Cite Soleil, the most notorius slum in Port-au-Prince. We asked program director Daniel Tillias this question. He said that anyone who lives in Cite Soleil is marginalized. The area has a reputation for gangs and violence. People go to great lengths not to identify themselves as being from there, nor do Haitians want to go there. For a time, the UN categorized the area as a red zone, which kept most nongovernmental organizations from working there. Even within this marginalized community, the elderly and people with disabilities are even more at risk.

A semifinal soccer game was in full swing Tuesday afternoon at The Community Center for Alternative Peace in Cite Soleil, the biggest slum in Port-au-Prince and an area known for violence and gangs. MCC supported the construction of the center, which has become an oasis in Cite Soleil. The center, known by its Haitian Kreyol acronym, SAKALA, also has become a meeting place for grassroots organizations that are working to address issues in the community. The center gives people hope and a sense of power, said Daniel Tillias, program director, and it shows Haitians that good things can happen in Cite Soleil. After the earthquake, Pax Christi sought out MCC asking for large amounts of potable water for the community and for durable tents where people who were old or had disabilities could live together. MCC continued to work in Cite Soleil, supporting Pax Christi’s construction of the Community Center for Alternative Peacebuilding, known by its Haitian Kreyol acronym SACALA. This center is becoming a community hub where grassroots organizations can meet. Sports teams that play there are formed so that youth from conflicting neighborhoods are on the same team. Students can get tutoring and learn to garden. This is one just one example.

From the very beginning of MCC’s earthquake response, MCC Haiti staff has worked with partner organizations who already were working with the invisible and marginalized in Haiti. They connected MCC to opportunities to improve life for child servants in Haiti, repair housing for those with disabilities, and build houses for single-parent families.

Joy Reimer asked:

Where is the greatest need in Haiti currently? And do you have specific projects that people can contribute to that will help Haiti?

It depends, said Kurt Hildebrand, an MCC Haiti representative. Different parts of the country are facing different crises. In Port-au-Prince, the need for safe housing is worse than anywhere else, but food insecurity is probably the worst outside of Port-au-Prince.

MCC continues to listen to its partners and is always looking for opportunities to intervene where needs are greatest and where there can be a sustainable, Haitian-led approach.

Betsy Packard asked: 

What is the situation there now? What can those of us unable to travel do to help?

Simply being an informed citizen and being aware of the issues in Haiti is one the most important things that anyone can do, said Kurt Hildebrand, an MCC Haiti representative. “Awareness helps people understand the relationship between their country and Haiti. As a citizen of a powerful democracy that has a huge influence on Haiti, this knowledge allows you to advocate for Haiti. 

It's true that progress is hard to see three years later. Haitians as well as the international community imagined that results of the $6.43 billion raised by bilateral and multilateral donors would come quicker. There still are more than 350,000 internally displaced people living in tents. The tents and temporary housing given were not intended to be a 3-year solution. However, many of the organizations came with a directive to do immediate disaster response, and not long-term development. Various aid agencies had different directives, including health-care, education, training in technical skills, and agriculture, that did not necessarily have a direct impact on infrastructure.  Additionally, most organizations would only build permanent housing if a land title could be presented. The result: 110,964 temporary housing units and only 5, 911 permanent houses built, according to the Haiti E-shelter and CCCM Cluster, an umbrella platform of agencies and organizations working in housing in Haiti.

Some argue that permanent housing is the responsibility of the government. However, in the aftermath of the earthquake only about 1 percent of humanitarian relief went to the government, or through the Haitian government. MCC has been advocating alongside the Haitian Collective to Defend the Right to Housing for permanent social housing options organized by the government to respond to this need. 

Louise Long asked:

Hello, I really appreciate what all MCC does in this world. I support two students for school in Haiti. They lived through the earthquake for which I am grateful. My son in law was in Haiti for business with Red Cross and came back with a grim report. He said nothing was really being done. His job was to raise money for Red Cross to rebuild. His comment was where tents are where houses should be and there was mounds of junk piles everywhere. I am hoping you will have some pictures and find a different story. 

Louise, I hope you were watching the photos we posted on Facebook on Jan. 8-12. They will show that positive things are happening even though the country still has many issues. We asked Kristen and Wawa Chege, MCC Haiti policy analysts and advocacy coordinators, to reply to your question: 

Thanks for your affirmation of MCC’s work. It's true that progress is hard to see three years later. Haitians and the international community imagined that results would come more quickly from the $6.43 billion $6.43 billion already disbursed by international donor agencies. There still are more than 350,000 internally displaced people living in tents. The tents and temporary housing given were not intended to be a long-term, solution. Many of the organizations came to do immediate disaster response, not long-term development. Many had different directives, including health- care, education, training in technical skills and agriculture, which did not necessarily have a direct impact on infrastructure.  

Additionally, most organizations will only build permanent housing if a land title could be presented. Getting a clear land title in Haiti is difficult because without a central housing ministry to register land claims, multiple people possess paperwork showing ownership of the same land. The result: 110,964 temporary housing units and only 5, 911 permanent houses have been built in the entire country since the earthquake, according to Emergency Shelter and Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster, an umbrella platform of agencies and organizations working on housing in Haiti.

Some argue that permanent housing is the responsibility of the government. However, in the aftermath of the earthquake, only about 1 percent of humanitarian relief went through the Haitian government for implementation of projects or capacity building. MCC has been advocating alongside the Haitian Collective to Defend the Right to Housing for permanent social housing options organized by the government to respond to this need. See undertentshaiti.com for more information.