Workers prepared, last September, to tackle the rebuilding of the Methodist Church of Haiti’s flagship school, New College Bird.
Linda Unger, UMCOR
By David Tereshchuk *
January 7, 2013—Three years after January 2010’s historic and devastating earthquake, Haiti continues along its hard road of recovery.
Despite some recent international media accounts that have decried a painfully slow rate of rehabilitation, the creditable proportion of seventy-five percent out of 1.5 million of Haiti’s earthquake homeless have now been rehoused.
Development was inevitably thrown badly off-track by the quake, and it became a huge—and too often unspoken—casualty of the devastation.
Today, Haiti is ready to turn the corner from emergency response—enormous as it had to be—toward long-term development again. And, inescapably, Haitians have to confront the same precarious conditions that existed before the quake and that continue to make them especially vulnerable to any disaster that may come again. Last year’s hurricanes Isaac and Sandy provided sobering reminders of the external shocks that can destabilize development at a moment’s notice.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, in its work in support of the Haitian people, has made absolute priorities of food security and nutrition, education, livelihoods, and health coverage, as well as the construction or reconstruction of homes that can withstand Haiti’s severe tropical weather and other challenges from nature.
The agency has recently completed a strategic plan, to run through the end of 2017, to direct its Haiti work toward maximum impact in sustainable development.
Essential to this strategy will be the building and strengthening of partnerships, with both local and locally experienced international organizations, including church networks.
With focus on the long term, strengthening the organizational capacity of both partners and UMCOR staff working in Haiti will be important for implementing and managing vital projects, and increasing everyone’s ability to prepare for and effectively respond to future disasters—and, whenever possible, reduce the risk of their happening.
Thodleen Dessources, UMCOR’s Haiti program manager says: “UMCOR is committed to Haiti’s recovery and sustainable development, and we pledge to see these processes through responsibly, in collaboration with the Haitian people and our partners.”
Deep engagement with local communities will of course be a key element in that work. Haitians’ own continuing input, evaluation, and support for development programs and change within their communities will be essential in fostering a sense of ownership of those programs.
UMCOR will be working to provide integrated programming, including the support services, the means for restored livelihoods, and education opportunities that are crucial to long-term recovery and development.
Look for UMCOR’s new report on relief and recovery work in Haiti, which will post to www.umcor.org next week. Please give to Haiti Response, UMCOR Advance # 418325 to help continue that long-term effort.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.