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Haiti earthquake rebuilding: 2 year update

MCC response shifts to long-term programs

By Sheldon C. Good for Meetinghouse

Two years ago this week—Jan. 12, 2010—a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and devastated Port-au-Prince. Although the exact number has been difficult to determine, the highest reliable death count is estimated at 220,000 although Haitian government estimates are higher. The Presidential palace, Parliament and many other important structures were destroyed, along with countless homes and businesses, leaving 1.5 million to 1.8 million homeless. The country has yet to recover from the 2010 earthquake (and subsequent incidents) due, largely, to both the severity of the damage Haiti endured in 2010, as well as to public reliance on a government that was volatile well before the 2010 earthquake. United States aid organizations have donated $2 billion.

Meetinghouse, an association of North American Mennonite magazine editors, asked Sheldon C. Good is assistant editor and web editor for Mennonite Weekly Review to travel to Haiti under the sponsorship of Mennonite Central Committee to report on MCC's rebuilding work and its efforts to encourage Haitians.—Editors

Nearly two years after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, about $9 million of Mennonite Central Committee’s $16 million disaster response funds have been spent and allocated on projects to revitalize Haitians’ lives. The remaining $8 million, including two matching grants from the Canadian government, will be dispersed over the next three years.

Susanne Brown, MCC Haiti disaster response team coordinator, says the initial country-wide response focused on material relief and stimulating the economy through cash transfers, cash-for-work programs and recapitalization of small businesses.

“In the very beginning, we spent about $1.6 million on food, water and material aid, more than almost anything else, but now have shifted to projects that are more sustainable,” she says. “Underlying our entire response, though, has been advocacy for the Haitian people.”

About half of MCC’s 50 initial disaster response projects are completed. Only 8 percent of total expenses have been for local operations.

“We’re always trying to think about how we can serve as many people as possible,” Brown says.

MCC’s long-term disaster response includes business training, housing repairs and education.

MCC, along with a Haitian partner and with encouragement from Ten Thousand Villages, helped develop marketing materials for artisans.

“These are businesses that people already have, and we were helping them to employ more people,” Brown says. “We worked with small-business models.”

After repairing more than 200 houses for people with disabilities living in tent camps, MCC is opening up the housing repairs to a broader group of participants.

Now, MCC is shifting to owner-driven housing. In this model, MCC enters an agreement with a homeowner to evaluate what the homeowner currently has and wants to do to improve safe living conditions.

“Going forward, most of these homes will be built in stages, over time, as people have the ability to expand their homes,” Brown says.

Education projects benefit street children, restavec (unpaid worker) children, university students and agricultural and construction trades participants.

“This is probably the most widely expressed need we hear, to have education opportunities that are connected to livelihood opportunities,” Brown says.

As the disaster response continues, MCC continues to work with Haitian partners, Haitian and international policymakers, and global constituents.

“The needs of Haitian civil society cannot be forgotten,” Brown says.

MCC Haiti facts:

  • $16 million earthquake response budget, including $9 million committed to projects so far

  • $3.6 million for shelter; $1.6 for food; $1.2 million for education; $435,000 for human rights; $204,000 for trauma healing; $1.15 million for emergency response; $265,000 for health initiatives

  • 500 homes being repaired or constructed, including 233 for people with disabilities living in tent camps

  • 600 buildings such as schools, medical clinics, churches, orphanages and some homes inspected by teams of MCC structural engineers

  • 68 short-term workers have served seven days to three months in Haiti

  • 1,000 water filters distributed to prevent illness

  • 130 masons, 60 engineers and 516 business people received training

  • 12 students supported for their university education

  • One community center built for youth engaged in peacebuilding

  • 1,000 youth helped to get their working papers

  • Thousands of people participated in trauma healing programs

  • Hundreds of latrines are being built

  • 31,680 relief kits, 29,741 comforters/sheets, 14,896 school kits, 4,017 tarps distributed

  • Two meals a day distributed to neighborhood tent communities for three months; 1,029 people received food for eight weeks.

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