Haiti: One Year After the Earthquake

Photo by Yves Montoban

In Port-au-Prince today, The Salvation Army and Haitian citizens are gathering for a very special remembrance ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of an earthquake the world will not soon forget.

The Salvation Army continues to work with the nation throughout the rebuilding process. To learn more about the ongoing efforts in the island nation, we caught up with Major Ron Busroe, Director of Haiti’s Recovery and Development Office.  He and his wife first served in Haiti from 2001-2007. In response to the earthquake, they’ve been appointed to serve three more years.

Read on for a broad overview of The Salvation Army’s work and issues shaping those efforts.

For our latest statistics and program highlights, view our Haiti One Year Anniversary Fact Sheet at www.salvationarmyusa.org.

General Updates

The Salvation Army’s efforts in Haiti have progressed from the emergency response phase to the recovery and development phase. The Haiti Development and Recovery Office was established as of September 1 to oversee and guide these long-term recovery efforts, such as renovating schools and buildings as well as providing for the emotional and spiritual care of survivors.

In addition, the contract that established us as the “lead-agency” overseeing the temporary camp in the Delmas 2 neighborhood expired October 31. While The Salvation Army no longer manages the camp, our personnel remain involved and regularly meet with the camp committee. Much of our effort within this population goes toward cholera prevention.

The Salvation Army Haiti intends to move into a new Divisional Headquarters this month as their facility was destroyed in the earthquake.  They also plan to rebuild their clinic this year, and perhaps even a warehouse, as storage space is a rare commodity in Haiti.

Housing and Permanent Shelter

It was estimated that around 20,000 displaced Haitians were living in the Delmas 2 neighborhood’s tent city near The Salvation Army’s main compound following the earthquake.  Major Busroe estimates the number has dissipated now to somewhere just below 13,000 as people move out to the country. However, it’s been much more difficult for people wanting to start over within the city.

“Following the earthquake we’re seeing limited construction in city of Port-au-Prince. There’s some small construction, but few houses are being built. The rubble’s not removed so they can’t build, ” he explained, adding that the government’s weakened state and hurdles to verifying land ownership also inhibit progress. Reports indicate that after a year, less than 5% of the city’s rubble has been removed.

So Haitians’ only choices are to move and face the struggles of rural life (lack of access to clean water, medical services, business opportunities, education, and more) or continue to stay in their makeshift shelters.

Major Busroe says the Haitian government is encouraging NGO’s to build up resources within the rural communities  in an effort to encourage people to relocate and help decongest the city.  It’s a plan Major Busroe says The Salvation Army supports, though much of their service has already been focused on reaching the underserved outside the city even before the earthquake.

Cholera

While cholera is still a serious threat to the people of Haiti, the mortality rate is on the decline.  In general, those under The Salvation Army’s care have fared relatively well against the outbreak, although 4 female students from one of our schools perished when the epidemic first struck.

The Salvation Army is aggressively working to educate against, prevent, and treat further infection.  In addition to providing water filtration systems in key areas, Major Busroe reported they’re distributing soap, disinfectant, oral rehydration packets, and antibiotics within the temporary camp and to medical facilities.  In addition, The Salvation Army hospital in Fond-de-Negres set up a cholera treatment center at the request of the government, which has been filled with patients. The hospital is looking to set up an alternate site.

Schools and Services

The Salvation Army runs 49 schools in Haiti with approx. 11,000 students enrolled. All but one of those schools, College Verena in Port-au-Prince, continue to operate following the earthquake.  College Verena has been combined with another school and reconstruction efforts are expected to continue within the next year.

23 temporary classrooms have already been built and will officially open today as a part of the one-year remembrance ceremony. More than 1500 children will be able to attend classes there, broken up into a morning session for primary students and afternoon session for secondary students.

With the help of Numana, The Salvation Army hopes to one day serve meals in most of their rural schools.  “We feel if we can provide a meal everyday at schools, that’s the best way of getting kids into school and getting people to leave the city to come to country,” said Major Busroe.

In addition to bolstering schools and school programs, The Salvation Army Haiti is looking into providing other long term services for the community in general, such as adolescent care, integrated family support, and vocational training, with the help of The Salvation Army in Canada, Switzerland, and other International Divisions.

For our latest statistics and program highlights, view our Haiti One Year Anniversary Fact Sheet at www.salvationarmyusa.org.