Emergency button remains on in Haiti: World Vision

The earthquake that flattened the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, one year ago on January 12, 2010, has left a poor nation stuck in “emergency response,” humanitarian agency World Vision Australia said today. 

World Vision thanked Australian donors who responded with generosity to the quake, providing more than $10 million to the relief and reconstruction efforts. 

“A year ago, about a quarter of a million people died after just 30 seconds of a devastating earthquake. In the immediate aftermath, many lives needed to be saved, and Australian’s generosity made a huge difference,” World Vision’s Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Manager Anthea Spinks said. 

“However, not only were many people killed in the earthquake, but government infrastructure and basic utilities were also destroyed, disabling much of the city’s already inadequate water and sewerage facilities. 

“Many of the government’s staff who oversaw Haiti’s already complex land title and planning systems were also made homeless or even killed in the quake, making it difficult to re-build people’s homes. 

“The reality for Haiti is that a whole nation – already one of the world’s poorest – now has to be rebuilt, and this takes years. For agencies like World Vision, this past year was like running a sprint and a marathon at the same time.” 

Twelve months on, for the people of Haiti and for others who are watching its recovery keenly, there are legitimate questions about when things will return to normal. 

“No-one aspires to return to what was ‘normal’ for Haiti before the quake,” Ms Spinks said. “The stark reality is that Haiti was already one of the world’s poorest nations with appalling vital statistics. 

“Before the quake, four out of five people did not have access to a sewerage system and half of Haiti’s population even lacked access to clean water. Even now, there remain more than million people without adequate housing.” 

Haiti has a history of poor and sometimes brutal leadership. Currently, its struggle for better governance continues as disputed results from the November 28 presidential election led to violence and rioting, throwing up another barrier to progress in the recovery efforts. 

“In the complex environment after the quake, World Vision was able to supply more than 230,000 households with food aid and 350,000 people with household supplies such as toilet paper, soap and toothpaste, cooking supplies and bed sheets and blankets. The agency also provided 110,000 tarpaulins and 7,500 tents,” Ms Spinks said. 

“To date, nearly 700 transitional shelters have also been built for family’s left homeless by the disaster. These shelters, built on concrete slabs, offer more protection to families and their children. 

“Cash-for-work programs are helping to restore a flow of funds to families without work, and assistance for longer-term economic development is underway. And the most vulnerable people – Haiti’s children – are supported through Child-Friendly Spaces for play and education.” 

Responding to an outbreak of deadly cholera since October has become one of the most urgent needs. The highly contagious but treatable disease has become the focus of a separate high-level response, but due to the presence of many agencies working on health and hygiene education, action to help limit a more rapid spread of infection was possible. 

About 60 percent of the US$194 million funds raised by World Vision supporters have been spent, with future projects focused on moving from camp-based help to supporting the renewal of communities and their economic base. World Vision is committed to the emergency response and helping Haiti transition to long term recovery for at least the next five years. 

For additional information, please see World Vision’s report One Year On: Haiti Earthquake Response.

Anthea Spinks is available for interviews. Please contact World Vision media officer Sacha Myers on 0457 926 018.

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