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disasters and homelessness in Haiti
In January 2010, Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, was in the epicenter of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Concrete buildings were reduced to rubble, homes were destroyed and more than five million people were displaced. As one of the poorest countries, the fight against disasters and homelessness in Haiti is a continuous uphill battle. Here are six facts about the link between natural disasters and homelessness in Haiti.

6 Facts About Disasters and Homelessness in Haiti

  1. Haiti needed around 300,000 houses before the 2010 earthquake, and over 500,000 afterwards. At the time of the 2010 earthquake, 70% of Haiti’s population was living below the poverty line. As a result of frequent natural disasters, political unrest and the high dependency on agriculture for livelihood, the country fell behind in development.
  2. Buildings in Haiti were not built to withstand powerful earthquakes. Before 2010, there were no proper building codes for houses in Haiti. Over half of the population lives in rural areas with their homes consisting of mud walls and palm leaves woven together for a roof. In the cities, most live in overpopulated slums with no enforced safety regulations. This leaves a majority of the population vulnerable to losing their homes if a natural disaster strikes.
  3. Those who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake had to go to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. There, they lived in makeshift tents of sheets and tin, had no direct access to running water, no electricity and no security. However, countries around the world banded together in an effort to help the displaced by sending supplies, along with doctors and relief workers. Donors of Direct Relief provided up to $7 million for rebuilding in Haiti.
  4. Continuous natural disasters delay the recovery process. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti as a category 4, damaging the south end of the country. Once again, countries and organizations like World Vision continued to supply relief well into 2018. The Red Cross also funded livestock replacement and vet clinics that brought benefits to 5,000 families. Collectively, it raised a total of $5.2 million to help those in Haiti who had been impacted by the hurricane.
  5. IDP camps are still in use today. Of the 1.5 million people who lived in IDP camps in the summer of 2010, there are 50,000 that remain. Those who were able to leave the camps had either raised enough money to rebuild their home or received rental subsidies from the government. There are also hundreds of non-profit organizations, such as Homes for Haiti, Build Change, Build Abroad and the Red Cross, providing volunteers to build shelters for the homeless in Haiti.
  6. A cholera outbreak took place in one of the camps after the earthquake. However, along with the foreign aid and continuous construction of houses, the country has been successful in containing the cholera outbreak that overtook the camp after the earthquake. Haiti’s last confirmed cholera case was in January 2019, and has not seen any since.

There is hope for homelessness in Haiti. Recovery from disasters in poor countries like Haiti take time, but with coordinated efforts between humanitarian organizations, Haiti can continue to rebuild.

– Molly Moline 
Photo: Flickr

Kore Lavi Ends, Yet Haitians Look to Future with Optimism

In Aug. 2019, a USAID food insecurity program in Haiti, known as Kore Lavi, ended after five years of providing nutritious meals to malnourished Haitians. This comes at a time when an estimated 2.6 million Haitians — about a quarter of the population — still face food insecurity. Yet, Haitians are optimistic about the future. The Haitian government looks to build on Kore Lavi’s successful model through MAST, the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system and CARE’s micro-loan system.

Background

Today, Haiti is the most poverty-stricken nation in the Western Hemisphere; almost 60 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Corruption, natural disasters and high inflation are seen are the most prevalent impediments to Haiti’s economic growth. After the devastating earthquake in Jan. 2010 that decimated much of Port-au-Prince, the country was in dire need of a food insecurity program.

Kore Lavi, meaning “supporting life” in Creole, began in Sept. 2013 and has benefited 18,000 households from 21 food-insecure communes in the Northeast, Southeast, Central Plateau and Artibonite regions of Haiti, as well as the Isle of La Gonave. The program was originally scheduled to end in 2017, but after Hurricane Matthew destroyed many of the nation’s homes and crops, USAID extended Kore Lavi for two more years. The consortium was administered by MAST, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, along with the help of four NGOs: Action Against Hunger, World Vision, the World Food Programme and CARE International.

Kore Lavi’s Success

The initiative’s strategy for combating food insecurity involved promoting the consumption of fresh, locally-produced food such as meat, fish and vegetables, which could be purchased at vendors approved by the program. Laurore Antoine, the coordinator of the program, believes this was an innovative method at the time. “We wanted to divorce ourselves from the traditional approach. We wanted to kill two birds with one stone, so we boosted local production, as well,” Antoine told VOA.

Kore Lavi provided participants with monthly vouchers and the opportunity to participate in a formal market. This, according to CARE, provided Haitians with an increased sense of dignity by making their own food choices and gave local farmers the opportunity to participate in a stronger economy. In its first year alone, Kore Lavi provided 109,790 people access to locally produced foods. In its first four years, the program provided malnutrition treatment to 83,000 children under the age of 5.

Building on Progress

From the outset, Kore Lavi’s plan was to cultivate local ownership through collaboration with local officials at every level of program implementation. The vision was always for Kore Lavi to phase out and have the Haitian government take the reins, according to CARE. The program was designed to implement a sustainable social safety net and, in the future, to be “country-led and county-run.”

One objective of Kore Lavi was to implement an equitable and effective means of reaching the most at-risk households. To that end, MAST developed the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system, which allows the government to more effectively identify and target households most vulnerable to food insecurity. Alexis Barnes, acting senior development, outreach and communications officer for USAID in Port-au-Prince, explained to VOA that this mapping system is now “supported by other donors such as the European Union, and international NGOs working on activities serving the most vulnerable.”

CARE also implemented a micro-loan system to support the food program. Antoine believes this system will “motivate former participants to unite and borrow money to launch small businesses that can pick up where Kore Lavi left off.” Youri Latortue, a Haitian lawmaker and poultry farmer, believes it is time for the Haitian government “to step in to do its part.” By boosting national food production, Latortue is hopeful that Haiti can end the food insecurity crisis. “That’s the only way out of this crisis,” he said in an interview. Although, Antoine acknowledges that MAST must secure financial resources to continue funding the program.

Looking Towards the Future

Barnes is optimistic Haiti will continue the progress: “The program succeeded in demonstrating that the government of Haiti can manage a predictable social transfer activity to the most vulnerable in this country in a well-targeted and transparent manner.” Though Kori Lavi has officially ended, its food voucher-based safety net system remains in place. This system has changed the lives of many beneficiaries over the past five years, many of them among the most vulnerable. Kore Lavi has lifted many of those facing extreme hunger and malnutrition out of desperation and provided hope for the future.

Adam Bentz
Photo: USAID

Fighting Poverty in Haiti
Haiti is a country among the most struggle-filled in terms of development in its personal history. With a long history of changing its rule, sociopolitical instability and copious natural disasters, Haiti faces one of the tallest uphill battles of any country. The country is one of the United States’ top trading partners and there has been a solid, though rocky, history between the two nations. The following will describe some of the struggles the country faces in developing its infrastructure, as well as a quick look at how the United States and other nonprofit groups are fighting poverty in Hati.

The Challenges of Infrastructure

Developing infrastructure and fighting poverty in Haiti is no small task, but Haiti has a history and a geographical position that makes it even more challenging than many other developing nations. Economically, Haiti has faced a depreciation of value in its currency and a heavy reliance on foreign aid that composes 20% of its overall annual budget. It also has faced a long history of dictatorships or otherwise corrupt government officials, which creates difficulty in achieving political stability even today. The most damaging factors to Haiti’s infrastructure, however, come from the natural world.

Haiti faces more natural disasters than any other Caribbean nation. Positioned on a fault line and directly in the path of most hurricane formations through the Gulf of Mexico, the nation suffers earthquakes, extreme flooding and wind damage. Though these are difficult enough to face on their own, a lack of city planning or rapid response to infrastructure damage leaves Haiti recovering for a lengthy time period after such disasters. In 2010, there was a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that displaced many Haitians from their homes; from 2015 to 2017, there was a massive drought leading to losses of 70% of crops; and in 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused significant damage to infrastructure and housing. Haiti faces a number of rapid-fire disasters and it does not have the economic resources nor the political responsibility required to recover.

There are other infrastructural systems that face significant issues in Haiti. Aside from damage to roads and buildings, there are many cities in Haiti without a central sewage system. Port-au-Prince is among the largest cities in the world without such a system, causing more than 3 million people to use outhouses. The lack of improved sanitation systems leads to water contamination and outbreaks of diseases such as dengue, malaria and cholera. Internet access and electricity are also improving, but at a very slow rate – only about 12% of Haitians have access to the internet and roughly 44% have access to electricity.

Solutions

In order to assist with developing infrastructure and fighting poverty in Haiti, organizations like the World Bank and USAID, and nonprofits such as HERO and Hope for Haiti, are coming together to provide assistance to Haitians both directly and through funding. The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) rehabilitated over 100 kilometers of roadway, set up a debris processing facility and provided recovery kits to 50,000 people following the 2010 earthquake – all the while employing Haitians for such recovery projects and providing them a source of income.

The nonprofits HERO and Hope for Haiti are also helping with developing infrastructure and fighting poverty in Haiti. HERO provides 24/7 medical emergency response, as well as other important health services, in Haiti. This means that when such disasters occur, there will still be emergency relief aid. Hope for Haiti is also assisting with education and water-based infrastructure – providing education for more than 7,000 students, and 1.7 million gallons of clean water annually to families in need. The assistance of these organizations is integral, and with their help alongside national organizations and a potential increase in aid from the United States, Haiti can overcome its struggles with infrastructure.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Defense.gov

The Success of Humanitarian Aid to Haiti
Since the 2010 earthquake, there has been an increased focus on humanitarian aid to Haiti. Many argue that not enough has been done when it comes to providing humanitarian aid to the country.

In an Op-Ed written for The Guardian, Unni Karunakara, the former International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, stated that there was an inadequate response to the cholera outbreak that struck Haiti following the earthquake. At the time he wrote the article, his colleagues had already treated over 75,000 cases of cholera.

In another article for the Huffington Post, Cynthia Kao wrote that Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and that a lack of partnership by international organizations has led to the unaccounted use of aid money.

Some organizations, such as USAID, have been striving to make a positive impact and address the persisting challenges of providing humanitarian aid to Haiti. In 2017, St. Boniface Hospital in Haiti was able to build an additional surgical ward through a grant provided by USAID’s Office of American Hospitals. The new surgical ward was put to immediate use, saving many lives in the process.

USAID also served as one of the primary relief organizations in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. The organization provided emergency food assistance, emergency shelter, search and rescue, rubble removal, classroom construction and assistance with the cholera outbreak, among other things. USAID has also made efforts in combating corruption within the public sector along with improving the transparency of financial management.

After the disastrous effects of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Haiti to lead the United States’ response efforts. USAID’s humanitarian aid to Haiti following Hurricane Matthew included shelter assistance, food assistance, healthcare and sanitation. It also provided a joint task force for the movement of emergency relief supplies and humanitarian personnel, with a total of 98 flights delivering aid to 13 hard-to-reach communities.

Key advancements have been made in health services, agriculture, municipal governance and legal protections for vulnerable populations. Within the agriculture sector, positive results include improved seeds, provision of fertilizer, innovative farming technologies and $12 million private sector funds that were allocated to creating more than 13,000 jobs.

Despite the problems in ensuring adequate humanitarian aid in Haiti over the past few years, organizations like USAID seem to be making strong efforts in helping the country. While challenges remain, the ongoing improvements and positive impacts will continue to make a difference in Haiti.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Irma ReliefThe U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has launched a major humanitarian mission in the Caribbean regions that have been devastated by Hurricane Irma. The organization’s outreach efforts are focused on the most vulnerable inhabitants of the affected areas: children.

UNICEF is a U.N. program working to protect childrens’ rights in 192 countries and territories. UNICEF employs both intensive research and practical problem-solving to provide humanitarian assistance to children in developing countries. In 2016, UNICEF provided educational materials and other support to 15.7 million children, including 11.7 million children who had been impacted by emergencies such as natural disasters and civil unrest.

The organization has a proven track record in providing relief to hurricane victims in the Caribbean. After Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, UNICEF helped return 25,000 students to school by rebuilding 75 educational centers. Additionally, the nonprofit secured medical aid for 80,000 people and provided clean water for 400,000 people.

UNICEF estimates that more than 10.5 million children will be affected by Hurricane Irma, including more than three million children younger than five years old. The organization’s most urgent concern is getting clean drinking water to storm victims.

UNICEF is uniquely positioned to spread awareness and survival tips to adolescents living within the hurricane zone, thanks to U-Report. U-Report is a communication platform that uses SMS texting to relay information and surveys to young participants. UNICEF typically utilizes U-Report to poll adolescents about pressing issues in their communities.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, UNICEF mobilized U-Report to send out “how to stay safe” messages to young users in the storm zone. The nonprofit sent out 8,500 texts within the initial 48 hours of the hurricane. Messages were available in English, French and Spanish to accommodate the diverse population affected by the hurricane. Between 9 p.m. and midnight on September 6, a user accessed information about Irma via U-Report every 10 seconds.

UNICEF was able to launch an immediate Hurricane Irma relief effort because the organization anticipated and prepared for the devastation. “Considering the possible magnitude that Irma represents, it is both hugely urgent and necessary to be prepared, informed and vigilant so that we try to avoid the impact on the most vulnerable, that is to say children,” said Marita Perceval, UNICEF regional director in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To prepare for the hurricane, UNICEF moved emergency supplies including clean water, medicine and nonperishable food into the region. Additional emergency materials are being sent from the UNICEF Supplies Division warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. The warehouse is the world’s largest humanitarian storage facility and can ship supplies anywhere in the world within 72 hours.

UNICEF already has first responders on the scene who are utilizing emergency supplies stored in Barbados and Panama. U-Report aids these humanitarian workers by collecting information on who needs help after Irma.

The organization is distributing tents, hygiene kits and water purification tablets to families in Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos. Child protection materials are also being provided to ensure that affected children are identified and sheltered. Trained facilitators have been sent to the region to ensure the psychological well-being of young victims.

Leaders at the nonprofit urge the international community to increase support for Hurricane Irma relief. Khin-Sandi Lwin, head of UNICEF’s Caribbean response, estimates that the organization needs another $2.3 million in funding to complete its humanitarian efforts.

UNICEF will continue providing Hurricane Irma relief in the coming weeks. More information about UNICEF’s Hurricane Irma relief efforts and ways to help can be found on their website.

Katherine Parks

Photo: Google

New Story
Hurricane Matthew killed 1,000 people and left 60,000 suddenly homeless. The New York Times reports that in one Haitian city alone, 80 percent of buildings were desolated. In the face of the worst natural disaster since the 2010 earthquake, one has to wonder if there is anything positive to be found among the pain in this devastated country. That’s where New Story comes in. New Story is a non-profit that has built 211 homes in Haiti, all of which survived Hurricane Matthew.

Every single house stood resistant to the category four storm. CEO Brett Hagler updated supporters the day after the hurricane saying, “People […] were bringing in other folks from the tents to take refuge in the homes last night during the hurricane, which is amazing and a testament to the durability of these homes.”

Hypepotamus reports that New Story was founded in 2014 on a mission to build homes for Haitian people in need. Hagler and Mike Arrieta compiled a strong Atlanta based team, successful in leveraging technology for social good as they built two new homes within their first three months of existence. Hagler explains, “We are trying to solve two problems — life-threatening homelessness and the status quo of traditional charity.”

The process begins with the recognition that homes are the foundation: without a stable place to live, families cannot focus on education, income or set hopeful goals for the future. The next step is to work with locals.

Every economy New Story interacts with is stimulated by the process through partnering with nonprofits and utilizing resources already present in the countries where they are building. Their website states, “through our partners, we learn in months what it would take years to understand if we tried to enter new communities independently.”

The keyword there is “communities.” Instead of focusing only on individual homes, this organization builds entire communities so as to form strong and lasting places for people to live. They believe a home is more than four walls and are committed to gathering data to ensure that the next is even better than the last.

They challenge the status quo of traditional charity by proving that 100 percent of their donations go toward building homes. Each home costs only $6,000 to build and donors can start a crowdsourcing fund to raise every dollar, or they can give as little as the amount of cash in their pocket.

No matter how much money a donor gives, every single one is connected through video with the exact family whose house they helped to build. This transparency gives a visual representation of that which is abstract for donations to so many other nonprofits. “Now going forward there’s obviously a lot of recovery to do […] and we think this hurricane just punctuates our belief that everyone deserves a safe home,” said Hagler.

With 100 percent of donations directly helping families, communities and larger economies, this nonprofit is an incredible example of work that is effective and strong even in the face of 140 mile-per-hour winds. There is a new story being told, in Haiti and beyond, and the question remaining is how each of us will help to write it.

Rebecca Causey

Photo: Flickr