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In a country where over 80% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, Haiti is a country burdened with struggles. In a country that suffered one of the most devastating earthquakes in the Western Hemisphere in 2010, daily life is characterized by endless tribulations. As food prices soar, the Haitian situation becomes even more precarious as life revolves around food security, of which the average Haitian generally has none.

Throughout the developing world, a healthy aquaculture remains vital to food security, as fishing is often the primary source of sustenance for many of these populations. In small island states like Haiti, fish are even more important, as they generally constitute more than 50% of an individual’s protein intake. Furthermore, fishing in Haiti and other countries is an important source of employment for the developing world, where 97% of the world’s fish are caught. A healthy aquaculture can positively transform a struggling country like Haiti.

The World Resources Institute characterizes all of Haiti’s reefs to be at high risk.  Mass unemployment, overpopulated coastal areas, narrow shelf areas, and easy access to reefs have exponentially increased the danger to Haiti’s aquaculture, making Haiti’s coastal regions the most exploited in the Caribbean. Furthermore, due to the lack of sewage treatment plants and sanitary landfill, there is a heavy flow of nutrients into the ocean, sparking excessive algae growth.

Organizations like Food for the Poor have recognized the enormous need to stabilize and develop Haiti’s fishing economy. They have established 41 fishing villages in Haiti, providing entire communities with a reliable source of food and income. Additionally, Food for the Poor has constructed 40 tilapia ponds, further expanding the fish stocks in Haiti.

On their work with Haiti’s aquaculture, the Vice President of Food for the Poor Jean Robert Brutus commented, “The organization Food for the Poor has grown over time and has strengthened, the founders and managers of Food for the Poor have quickly realized, that although they distributing thousands of meals to the needy […] that the needs of Haiti go beyond simply distributing food to the poor…” Thus, the creation of sustainable fishing practices is much more effective in the long term, as Haitians will develop the skills to cultivate their aquaculture in a sustainable way.

Improving the fishing industry in Haiti could have an enormous impact on the lives of all Haitians, serving as an important step towards the future autonomy of Haiti.

– Anna Purcell 

Sources: Food and Agriculture Organization, World Resources Institute, Haiti Libre
Photo: Nouvelle

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Since its founding in India in 1965, Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team (AMURT) has been dedicated to implementing disaster relief and development solutions to impoverished communities around the world. Instead of a cookie cutter based approach where every community receives the same aid regardless of circumstance, AMURT strives to localize solutions based on each community’s unique needs. With relief teams now set up and helping in 34 countries, here are 4 crisis zones where AMURT is making a major difference.

1. Ghana – Safer Water & Healthier Villages

Through the Mafi-Zongo Area Water Project, surface water from a seasonal river is treated with a variety of filters to make it safe for drinking. It is then pumped down a mountain through 45 pipes. Ghanaians pay about 2 pennies for a 20 liter bucket of water, the cost of which goes towards water treatment staffing and running the generators. Because of AMURT’s project, 9,000 people now have access to disease-free water that is not contaminated by the Guinea worm which is very prevalent in the area.

2. Syria – Help for the Displaced

The current civil war in Syria has led to a humanitarian crisis where more than 2 million refugees are fleeing to surrounding countries. The number of people increases daily, yet supplies for the displaced are dwindling. AMURT is now in Lebanon distributing precious, basic items to Syrian refugees. These goods include stoves, bedding, medicine, and 40 kilograms of food. Though it may not seem like much, these basic items mean everything for the survival of refugees.

3. Kenya – HIV/AIDS Assistance

As part of an initiative to help people living with AIDS in Kenya, AMURT has created a home-based care provider program to improve lives through “nursing care, nutritional education, [and] counseling.” These local providers are trained through the country’s Ministry of Health, and they make routine visits to AIDS patients’ homes when they are too sick to move. With this program, over 100 care providers have already been trained who are making a difference in the lives of thousands of patients and their families.

4. Haiti – Earthquake Relief

In the time since the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, AMURT raised over $4.2 million to help with the social and structural redevelopment of the country. Their main project worked on restoring well-being to Haitian children’s lives through nutritional assistance, motivational activities, and various kinds of educational enrichment. Since its inception, the psycho-social support program has reached 4,000 impoverished youth. In addition, AMURT helped thousands of people in displacement camps throughout Port-au-Prince with water filtration, cholera prevention, and even microfinance projects.

AMURT has proven that one organization can help tackle any disaster by utilizing local solutions and long-term development ideas. To find out more about AMURT and their wide-array of relief projects around the globe, visit their website.

– Caylee Pugh

Sources: AMURT, Haiti Aid Map
Photo: Flikr

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One of the primary causes of poverty in Haiti is deforestation. Only 2% of the Haitian side of the island is covered by forest, one of the lowest rates in the world and less than a fifth of the global average. Satellite images show a striking contrast between the forested Dominican Republic and the barren Haiti. Severe deforestation leads to poor soil quality and water scarcity, both of which reduce agricultural yields. Additionally, natural disasters are worsened with the instability of bare soil, increasing the threat of mudslides and the damage caused by earthquakes.

This issue is not a new one in Haiti. Deforestation began on a massive scale in colonial times, when land was cleared for sugar plantations. Since then though it has continued, with as many as 40 million trees felled annually for cooking fuel. However, a recent government initiative marks a turning point. The government of President Michel Martelly is beginning a push to reforest Haiti, committing to planting 50 million trees a year. The goal is to double forest cover by 2016, and then to continue to improve on that gain. Until now, reforestation programs have all been carried out by non-government organizations, the majority of which are foreign operated.

To further the actual planting of trees, the campaign will include various methods of educating the populace. The initiative’s success requires readjusting the view all Haitians have towards deforestation. Radio programs will be used as educational tools, as well as pamphlets and the addition of environmental studies to the school curriculum. Gas-powered stoves will be promoted as efficient alternatives to the burning of wood and charcoal for cooking.

In order to be successful, this initiative will require a lot of effort from the government. In addition to education and the actual reforestation process, a concerted effort will need to be made to enforce legislation and prevent illegal logging in protected areas. The project is only just beginning, but if it is successful, we will see significant benefits in just a few years.

– David M. Wilson

Sources: The Guardian, Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Photo: UNDP 

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In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the country of Haiti, claiming tens of thousands of lives and costing $7.8 billion in damages. Build Change, a non-profit international organization, is fortifying impoverished nations to prevent another disaster of this scale.

Working in Haiti, China, and Indonesia, Build Change provides earthquake-resilient house designs to be implemented by local homeowners and carpenters. Instead of proposing revolutionary design choices, Build Change analyzes the architecture of affected areas and makes specific modifications to improve stability. This allows local workers to quickly learn the new designs and eventually become able to build safer housing without outside help.

After an impoverished country endures an earthquake, houses built as replacements can either be culturally inappropriate or suffer from the same instability that caused the original houses to collapse. By intervening after a time of disaster, Build Change enables home owners to be involved in the building of secure housing. This in turn sparks the creation of new jobs for local workers. In a country like Haiti, with 70% of the population either unemployed or underemployed, this is a huge boom for the economy.

With 18,701 houses built, success stories have been numerous. Haitian Mirlande Joseph recounts her experience working with Build Change after her house was leveled by the devastating earthquake. Although they could not offer her financial support, they were able to walk her through the process of building a new house by engineering the design and providing onsite training of the workers tasked with the physical labor. Although this required more monetary investment than Joseph anticipated, the experience was so positive that she considered taking up construction as a profession.

Build Change was founded in 2004 by Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, who started the organization in response to the tragic number of lives lost following earthquakes. Hausler realized the insurmountable amounts of damage could be avoided if those in poverty had access to better housing. Finding immediate solutions to this issue helps prevent millions of dollars in repairs that would be spent following a national disaster. To Hausler, it’s imperative to provide these designs to those in struggling countries, regardless of whether their respective economies have fully recovered or not.

This sentiment is encapsulated in the Build Change site’s timeline: “Earthquakes don’t kill people… poorly built buildings do.”

In 2011, Hausler received the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT reward for sustainability in recognition of the work model utilized by Build Change. By winning the award, Hausler hopes to inspire governments and building agencies to create affordable building codes that are sustainable and efficient. She hopes more young inventors will take time to work with the locals of struggling countries to conceive practical and economic solutions with their products and methods.

– Timothy Monbleau

Source: BBC News, Build Change, Economic Impact of Haiti Earthquake, MIT Press Release
Photo: Build Change Universal Giving

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In Haiti, many poor and vulnerable families, most of which live in rural communities, lack access to social services, hospitals, and the necessary medical attention. However, the Kore Fanmi project, launched last year, has been successful in providing 15,000 families with increased access to basic services in the Center department.

In partnership with the World Bank, the Haitian Ministry of Finance’s Fund for Economic & Social Justice, and World Vision, the project trains local members of the community as Household Development Agents (HDAs), who then work towards connecting families with the social services they need the most. The project is helping families gain access to fundamental services such as education, vaccines, and latrines.

By training members of communities to be social workers, these individuals also benefit from the program; Dr. Germanite Phanord, the project manager at of the Economic and Social Assistance Fund, said, “This is a social protection program where a model is tested to determine if sectors workers can be transformed into social workers”.  After HDAs are trained, they become responsible for 100 families, for which they must prepare a plan, which is based on 28 life goals, such as, “the family must use latrines.” By providing these services, Kore Fanmi is focusing on helping families restore and fulfill their human rights.

In addition, the Kore Fanmi project aims to connect with international agencies and nongovernmental organizations so that they can create a common operational strategy for coordinated and decentralized delivery of basic services. By improving this aspect of public administration, an inter-organizational coordination will allow a HDA to refer a vulnerable family to another organization in their commune, who can provide the relevant medical, food or social program required.

The structure and training program of the Kore Fanmi project are both realistic and sustainable; the grass roots, community approach is aiding rural communities to change attitudes towards family planning, treated water and education.

– Chloe Isacke
Source: World Bank, Partners in Health
Photo: Washington Post

Vital Increase in Rice Production in HaitiRecently the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization predicted that Haiti would see a 25% increase in its rice crop production between 2012 and 2013. For Haiti, a country that most often receives attention for reasons such as extreme poverty and inequality, this news is a step in the right direction.

Rice is a daily staple food for Haitians, yet they import 83% of the crop, mostly from the U.S. This leaves Haitians vulnerable to volatile world-market prices. Between 2003 and 2008 the price of rice increased fivefold. The price spike resulted in widespread hardship throughout the country. As a result, the Haitian government now aims to be food self-sufficient by 2016.

The increase in rice production this year is good news for Haiti, but the country still has a long way to go. Despite the increase, they will still have to import more than two-thirds of the rice that Haitians will consume. According to a recent Oxfam report, Haiti can become more independent in rice production if they make more investment in programs such as improved irrigation systems, mills, storage, and drying facilities. The report also concludes that Haitian farmers need access to better transportation, credit, and technical advice.

Oxfam works in Haiti to help alleviate the problems by bringing farmers’ voices into the debate, working to change harmful policies, increasing investment, and using agroecological tools that are effective despite Haiti’s lack of resources. Oxfam has already partnered with USAID to produce a pilot program, called System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI boosts crop yields with less seed, less water, and uses organic fertilizer. The increase in rice production this year, then, is a move towards a more sustainable and more self-sufficient system of farming for Haitians.

– Chloe Isacke

Source: Oxfam America
Photo: CNN

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The USAID is awarding the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) a $24 million dollar contract for a three-year sustainable electricity pilot in Haiti.  The project will serve to provide electricity to the rural region around Caracol and give at least 5,000 Haitians light.  NRECA will consolidate an electric distribution system in Caracol with a a power generation system to create regional utility services able to serve the rural region.

The project will serve as a blueprint for sustainable electric projects both in Haiti and globally and NRECA is excited for the USAID partnership. The funds from USAID will allow NRECA to operate the power plant and train a competent, educated workforce to continue the project after the three-year duration. NRECA is a national service organization that represents the US not-for-profit, consumer owned electric cooperatives.

80 local Haitians will be hired and trained to oversee the project so that it can continue to run without the need for outside technical expertise. Electricity will be fueled by diesel and heavy fuel oil. In the future, plans to create a solar power component to fuel the project are being drawn up.  The plant will be the only utility in Haiti to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

USAID hopes the model will be a new blueprint for providing reliable electricity and sound business help to meet the needs of economically-disadvantaged communities. The community will be engaged through focus groups to discuss topics such as costs of service, consumer obligations, and tariffs. The model and project are a step in the right direction towards sustainable development.

Amanda Kloeppel

Source: NRECA

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When Katlin Jackson volunteered at an orphanage in Haiti, she expected to do a lot of important work.  What she didn’t expect was how her trip inspired Haiti Babi, an organization that aims to keep Haitian children in their homes and out of orphanages.
One in ten children in Haiti lives in an orphanage.  That’s nearly 500,000 kids who don’t live with their parents.  Many of them aren’t even orphaned; their parents just can’t afford to provide for them, so they are removed from their care and placed in orphanages.  As a volunteer, Katlin met and fell in love with one of these “orphans”.  One year old Sterly, like so many residents, had been taken from his parents not because they had died or mistreated him, but because they couldn’t afford a house, food, or basic medical care.
On a second trip to Haiti, Katlin was able to visit Sterly and his family after they had been reunited.  She was able to see firsthand the love in Sterly’s home, and that his parents wanted nothing more than to be able to care for and be with their son.  Katlin left Haiti with her mind made up that a loving family should not be forced apart due to poverty.  So she founded Haiti Babi, an organization that employs Haitian mothers wanting to provide for their children.
Haiti Babi, partnered with Second Mile Ministries in Haiti, enables Haitian moms to earn a reliable income for their family by knitting and crocheting artisan baby blankets.  Mothers around the world have the opportunity to support these women by purchasing their quality, handmade products online.  The sentiment behind the idea: moms helping moms.
So next time you’re in the market for a baby blanket, buy one that can warm your heart; a Haiti Babi blanket, handmade by a mother, doing everything she can for the children she loves.
Dana Johnson

Source: Haiti Babi

Aid to Haiti: What Lessons Can We Learn?A controversy with foreign aid does not always relate to misuse but the reality of the numbers and figures after the aid is delivered. A popular example of this has been the $9 billion in donations made to the Haitian government since the 2010 earthquake.

Last week, National Public Radio (npr) interviewed Jonathan Katz, the author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. This new book focuses on the damages to both the Haitian government and its people due to communication issues, lack of coordination, and the general failure of donor countries to follow-through on their promises.

After reading the interview, it is important to keep in mind that foreign aid is not a waste. There have been thousands and thousands of completely successful large-scale and small-scale transactions and projects throughout the centuries. Governments, however, need to really sit down and review their policies. In this review, one would hope they would seriously consider making more use of direct aid. As Katz briefly touches on in his interview, there is the uncommon but possible option of paying victims of the earthquake (or any crisis) and removing the middleman. Perhaps not handing them a band of cash exactly, but focusing the energy and time spent on drafting contracts, debt relief plans, and the such to send volunteers and individuals who are willing and passionate about making small but immediate and tangible changes, such as Syrian-American Omar Chamma has been doing in Syria.

The transcript of the interview follows:

Aid pledged to Haiti — $9.3 billion worth from 2010 to 2012 — is about a third of all global health aid donated in 2012. What happened to the money that was supposed to go to Haiti?

Katz: Money did what money tends to do in most foreign aid situations. That is, rather than being a model in which a rich country gives a poor country a big bag of cash and says, “Here spend this on fixing things up from whatever the latest crisis was,” what actually happens is that very little of the money actually leaves the donor countries. First of all, you’ve got billions of dollars that are promised but just never delivered. You’ve got billions of dollars more that were sort of creative accounting. Donor nations say they’re providing debt relief, yet those debts were never realistically going to be paid back. So some of the money is sort of fictive.

So how much actually made it into Haiti?

Even among the real money, if you look at what was labeled as humanitarian relief, in the months right after the quake, that amounts to about $2.5 billion.
Ninety-three percent of that money either went to United Nations agencies or international nongovernmental organizations, or it never left the donor government.
So you had the Pentagon writing bills to the State Department to get reimbursed for having sent troops down to respond to the disaster.
If we’re talking about reconstruction, it’s really a misnomer to think that relief aid was necessarily going to have the effect of rebuilding a country in any shape or form.

So what was that money spent on?

Band-Aids. Literally bandages. Short-term relief. Tarps to put over your head. Food to fill emergency gaps in supply.
But food gets eaten. Tarps wear out. Band-Aids get pulled off. And ultimately, all that money is spent, but people aren’t left with anything durable.When you hear about all these billions of dollars [in aid donations], the imagination is that they’re going to go and rebuild the country after the earthquake. They were never intended to do so and, lo and behold, they didn’t.

There are often complaints after big disasters about waste and inefficiencies. Was the Haiti earthquake different from any other international disaster or is this typical?

What is interesting about Haiti is the extremes.
There are lots of places that have weak governments, but Haiti’s government is weak in a special way. It’s the product of so many years of aid going around the government and international efforts to undermine the government. Presidents being overthrown and flown out on U.S. Air Force planes and then reinstalled and then overthrown again. That left the Haitian government in such a weakened state.
Then the disaster itself was also so much more extreme. It was so concentrated. It hit the capital city. Whether your estimates for a death toll is in the 80,000 range or closer to the government’s estimate of 316,000 — in a city of 2.5 million people — it’s just an extraordinary number.
It was an incredibly horrific disaster. It hit the country right at its heart and destroyed a government that was already weakened.
But beyond that, the attitude that so many foreign aid groups have regarding Haiti is that you can basically come in and do whatever you want. So there was no accountability, no coordination.
People were just running around doing what they thought was best or what they thought was best for them. And it really created a mess.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: npr

Haiti's Plan to Eliminate CholeraThe World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to help the Haitian government in its fight against cholera. The Haitian government has proposed a plan that would require an estimated $2.2 billion in investment over the next ten years to eliminate cholera.

The recent cholera outbreak can be traced back, to a large extent, to the 2010 earthquake that toppled buildings, destroyed infrastructure, and killed more than 250,000. The devastation also ruined irrigation systems, wells, sanitary plumbing, and sewers. Those damages to water security and cleanliness are thought to have contributed to the recent spread of cholera that the country has been experiencing.

Haiti’s plan will focus on repairing sanitation and providing greater access to clean water as well as rebuilding other water facilities. Before 2010 Haiti was reported to have the lowest rate of sanitation coverage in the Americas. A true sign of promise for this program is that it has been designed by the Haitian government and they are reaching out so openly to the international community. As previous programs around the world have shown, local ownership is a huge factor in the success of any aid program and Haiti’s ownership and openness are both good omens for their National Plan to Eliminate Cholera in Haiti.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: SKYN Vibes, The Telegraph