by Dan Ruth
Today is the second anniversary of the massive earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince, Haiti. It was a major humanitarian emergency that devastated an already fragile country. A lot has happened since then, and LWR continues the work it began long before the earthquake struck.
Our emergency relief efforts — like distributing Personal Care Kits — continue to be an important piece of Haiti’s long-term recovery, especially for the many families who are still living in temporary shelters. Yet long-term development that will help the people of Haiti rise out of persistent poverty is needed now more than ever.
Recently The New York Times ran an article about the importance of strengthening rural Haiti.
Reviving rural Haiti would wean the country off an overreliance on imported food while creating jobs in the countryside, helping to discourage mass migration to urban sinkholes like Port-au-Prince. Before the quake, nearly a quarter of the population lived in the capital, where two-thirds of the labor force had no formal jobs and overcrowding was considered a major contributor to the quake’s estimated death toll of 300,000.
Tens of thousands of people fled Port-au-Prince for rural areas immediately after the quake, but most have since returned, American and Haitian government officials said, finding little opportunity and food to be scarce.
“We need to reverse the trend of people in rural areas moving to the city,” said Ari Toubo Ibrahim, the Haiti representative for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The organization says it believes that, with enough training and support, about a tenth of the 600,000 people still in earthquake camps could ultimately move to the countryside.
Since 1997, LWR has been working to do just that. We continue to work in rural areas, providing technical training for farmers and setting up seed banks to strengthen agricultural programs. We support farmer associations that give farmers better bargaining power for buying seeds and equipment and selling crops. We are committed to the long hike toward sustainability for rural Haiti.
The Times goes on to say:
But the challenges are staggering, and most concern money. Irrigation is lacking, and poorly constructed ports and roads disrupt the delivery of produce to domestic and international markets. Government efforts ground to a virtual halt for months last year after a political crisis swirled around a botched election.
Foreign aid has slowed to a trickle. Only 43 percent of the $4.59 billion promised has been received and disbursed, according to the United Nations.
The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, the body created to coordinate and prioritize aid, closed in October when its mandate expired, with little sign that it will be renewed….
Its departure raises questions about whether the remaining pledges will ever be fulfilled.
Rest assured that Lutheran World Relief is not giving up in Haiti. We will continue our work there as long as we’re needed, walking with the communities there until all people live in justice, dignity and peace.