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Haiti, Day 11: Massive Aid Program Still Bottlenecked, Needs Still Overwhelming
Friday, January 22, 2010
© Brian Van der Brug/Los Angeles Times
Situation on the ground
Buses are beginning to move again, phone lines are starting to work, and banks are preparing to reopen in earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince. But food, clean water, shelter, and medical care remain scarce. The January 12 earthquake may have killed as many as 200,000 people, and has left at least 1.5 million homeless and another 2 million severely affected.
People are relying on one another to survive, as they have since the earthquake struck. Survivors have built hundreds of tent cities in and around the city and are finding what provisions they can. They continue to burn their dead or bury them in mass graves. But there is no effective system for disposing of refuse, and a perilous lack of sanitation. With each new day, life remains precarious.
Much-needed international aid is trickling in, but the distribution is still terribly bottlenecked and the massive relief program that is so desperately needed has yet to be rolled out. A health care system that was dysfunctional well before the disaster is completely unable to cope with the number of people who need emergency care. As time passes, fears of a widespread "aftershock" of infection and disease increase.
Thousands of survivors continue to flow out of Port-au-Prince because they cannot find the help they need. The Haitian countryside, whose population was struggling to survive even before the earthquake, is being inundated by this outmigration.
UUSC's experience in disasters has taught us that groups of people are often overlooked or ignored by conventional relief programs. We seek to reach those groups and meet their specific needs. We have learned that the best way to reach them is to work in partnership with local and grassroots organizations.
What UUSC is doing today
- We are working with the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) in the emergency phase of our response. UUSC is working with the MPP on setting up receiving stations in the countryside for earthquake survivors leaving the city, in order to provide them with transportation, food, and shelter.
- It is essential that Haitian organizations participate in directing the relief and recovery efforts. UUSC has been working with a sister organization to organize supplies and logistics for grassroots organizations in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel so they can distribute essential items to earthquake survivors where they work.
- UUSC will send an assessment mission to Haiti February 5-12 to work with our partners to develop a mid- and long-term response. Our mission will include a colleague who can speak Creole, has many years of experience working in the country, and has strong relationships with Haitian organizations.
- UUSC's assessment will guide our response over the mid- and long-term. We will help grassroots groups get back on their feet to work with the marginalized. Along with them, we will focus on reaching out to survivors who are on the margins of the relief and recovery efforts. As the situation in Haiti evolves, we are learning that those groups include:
- Children, orphans, child domestic workers (restaviks), and unaccompanied children.
- Women merchants and street vendors who will need help recapitalizing.
- The newly displaced who are fanning out to the countryside and need support from an already overstretched population.
- Amputees who will need to develop longer-term livelihoods.
- Our Programs Director has been training, by phone, medical teams providing emergency services on the ground.
How UUSC prioritizes immediate needs and mid- and long-term needs
UUSC reaches groups of people who are at risk of being left out or overlooked by traditional relief and recovery operations. With local partner organizations, we identify and bring attention to the gaps in relief and recovery, and help fill those gaps. We take action in the critical days and weeks following the disaster, and continue to work into the mid- and long-term as survivors struggle to re-establish their lives and livelihoods.
After any disaster, a portion of our relief funds are specified for emergency relief. A larger portion is allocated to the significant work of helping families and communities recover, rebuild, and renew.
Where your donation is going
Thank you to all of you who have already given financial support to help UUSC respond to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Your donation is restricted to the UUSC-UUA Joint Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. UUSC sends $0.92 of every dollar you donate to support relief and recovery efforts on the ground. The remaining $.08 covers essential administrative expenses such as wire transfer fees to send funds to Haiti, calls between our office and our partners on the ground, and temporary hires to support our rapid response.
Please help by giving as generously as you can. We will be updating our website regularly as our plans develop.