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Notes from Haiti

The following reflections are from Sue Brown, MCC's Haiti disaster response coordinator.

November 2010

In the eight months since the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake devastated much of Port-au-Prince and nearby towns, donors worldwide have given MCC some $14 million dollars for the disaster response. These donations are being spent both in the most-affected part of Haiti (the Department of the West) as well as other more rural departments (Plateau Central, Artibonite) where many people fled and have remained.
In the immediate emergency phase, MCC distributed tarps, tents, water filters and food in the Port-au-Prince area. With the generous donations of an estimated $2.1 million dollars of material aid, MCC Haiti continued distributions in Port-au-Prince but also in six other departments where displaced people had moved. In all cases, the material aid was distributed through local partners or established community groups. People have been thrilled, especially remarking about the variety and quality of items found in the relief kits. MCC expended $1.25 million of earthquake response money in the emergency and early recovery phase. These expenditures included bringing in some specialized medical and structural engineering teams, doing some in-country purchasing of supplies and paying shipping and local transportation costs related to distributing material aid.
MCC Haiti has a tradition of working through local partner organizations on projects they identify as important, including efforts in areas such as human rights, agriculture production, livelihood development and education. Since the earthquake, MCC has written memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with 10 different partner organizations. This funding of projects worth $3.17 million dollars includes new home building in the areas around Fondwa and Cabaret, cash transfer and small business startup in Petit-Goave, cash for work and business startup in Petit Place Cazeau and Carrefour-Feuilles, irrigation canal cleanup in Desarmes,  a conservation and reforestation project in the mountains above Desarmes, and countrywide local agriculture production/economics projects. Through the new MCC engineering/construction trades education program, MCC and three partner organizations are heavily engaged in the repair of homes for the handicapped population living in tent camps in the Port-au-Prince area.  MCC is one of several church organizations funding an initiative that draws on the expertise and training of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding to create a Haitian-led trauma healing program. Through the initiative, principles of trauma healing material will be reworked into the spiritual beliefs, storytelling traditions and styles that reflect Haitian culture and history.

Thirty percent of the earthquake money has been spent or committed in these months after the disaster. The rest of the response money will be spent over the next four years to support projects that will contribute to the decentralization of the population and integrate the development of livelihoods (agriculture, small business, etc.), education, hazard-resistant shelter and peacebuilding.
June 25, 2010
In the months since the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti's capital, donors have generously given some $13.9 million to MCC's earthquake response. We invite you to learn more about MCC's approach and principles in responding.
1. MCC is responding with short-term relief and longer-term multiyear efforts to help people rebuild their lives. As of June 25, 2010, a total of $3.4 million of approved funds are meeting some of the most urgent needs for food, water, water filters and shelter. In addition, MCC has sent some $2.1 million worth of material aid to Haiti. Longer-term plans currently underway include cash-for-work projects, shelter efforts and trauma healing.
2. MCC is committed to working through Haitian partner organizations, and MCC's response is shaped by the needs and realities that MCC staff members hear from Haitian partner organizations. Since the earthquake, MCC has increased the number of partner organizations it works with from eight to 10. All material aid has been given through Haitian partner organizations or through working with Haitian community groups.
3. MCC distributed emergency aid in four different areas of Haiti and will continue to reach out to people who have fled the capital for rural areas. Before the earthquake, one in three Haitians lived in the capital. In the wake of the devastation, more than 600,000 people left the city, putting intense pressure on rural communities, already the most impoverished areas in Haiti. In response, MCC's material aid has been distributed not only in the Department of the West, which includes Port-au-Prince, but also in departments of Artibonite, Plateau Central and Southwest. Over time, MCC will continue to work in Port-au-Prince but will begin to shift its focus to longer-term projects in the Artibonite Valley, where MCC has had a successful reforestation program for more than two decades.