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Three-Month Haiti Quake Anniversary Nears

By Sara A. Fajardo

Signs of progress are evident in Port-au-Prince: Beauty supply stores and small food kiosks flourish in the tarp-covered camps, the mountains of rubble are eroding under the constant tap of pickax-wielding crews, and the Haitian government has made headway in crafting a long-term strategy to get people out of camps and into homes. Haiti, a country wracked by a massive earthquake that destroyed infrastructure, killed an estimated 230,000 and affected 3 million, has begun the arduous task of building anew.

Constant Pierre Dephane

Constant Pierre Dephane uses materials salvaged from earthquake rubble to complete his CRS-provided shelter in the Petionville camp. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

While the news coverage of a devastated Port-au-Prince may have waned, interest in Haiti has not. The international community continues to rally with the common goal of building a self-sufficient Haiti. The guiding principles of Catholic Relief Services' work in Haiti are threefold: Save lives, help create jobs and strengthen civil society.

CRS cash-for-work programs have employed more than 1,700 Haitians since the quake hit.

Hiring residents to help clean up infuses the local economy with essential cash flow. Getting money into the hands of cash-for-work participants has a ripple effect. Their purchases provide jobs for vendors, who in turn provide jobs for distributors, who in turn provide jobs for manufacturers.

In the makeshift camp of Solino, canals surrounding the settlement were filled with garbage, sewage and rubble. With the rainy season threatening, it was imperative to clear the canals or risk them flooding the camp and increasing the outbreak of disease. CRS cash-for-work crews worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other organizations to clear the canals in what was deemed by the United Nations as one of the five most vulnerable sites in Haiti.

As part of an ongoing public health campaign to curb the spread of disease, CRS hired graffiti artist Gerry Rosembert to pepper the city with signs reminding people to wash their hands. Gerry's illustration of a single teardrop falling from a stylized map of Haiti became an iconic depiction of the battered spirits of Haitians in the days after the earthquake. This health campaign—along with the distribution of hygiene kits, installation of systems for clean water, drainage, sanitation, hand pumps and waste management in crowded makeshift camps—will be crucial in the coming months as the rainy season picks up and threatens the health of millions of the displaced.

To help farmers re-establish themselves after the quake, CRS held two massive seed fairs in the southern region of Haiti. CRS provided farmers with vouchers and linked them with local merchants, who exchanged the vouchers for seeds, fertilizer and supplies. The program allows farmers to purchase what they most need. It uses existing market channels rather than flooding the market with seeds, jeopardizing the local economy.

CRS is also working with farmers to stave off soil erosion by helping them intersperse fruit trees with their regular annual crops. This strategy provides short-term income while preventing future soil erosion by protecting the region from the mudslides that plagued Gonaives, Haiti, a little less than two years ago.

Over the next five years CRS plans to invest $200 million on our response to this emergency. The outpouring of support has been nothing short of remarkable. To date, we've received more than $125 million in private donations. In the past months we've added an additional 175 full-time employees to help the 303 Haitian staffers employed prior to the earthquake. Their skills are critical to our reconstruction efforts and to rebuilding the Haitian professional class, which collapsed along with much of the country's capital three months ago.

The numbers that Catholic Relief Services has reached at the three-month mark of the earthquake include:

  • more than 700,000 fed
  • 45,000 outpatients treated
  • 480 sophisticated surgeries performed
  • 80,000 protected by emergency shelter kits
  • 42,550 people who have benefited from latrines, showers and drinking water

Our work, however, is just beginning, and in the months and years to come CRS will continue to help the Haitian people while walking alongside them on the path to self-sufficiency.

Learn more about CRS' response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Sara A. Fajardo is a CRS communications officer covering Latin America and the Caribbean. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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