I am in the midst of packing up for my trip to Burundi and Tanzania, but wrote this last week for our blog at Plant With Purpose. There were about a thousand “Haiti Three Years Later” columns last week, not to mention several carefully timed book promotions. But nevertheless here is mine, with some more specific thoughts on what the earthquake has meant for our work in Haiti:
Near the Hotel Oloffson
Three years ago, a deadly earthquake crumbled cities and villages across Haiti, striking a devastating blow to a nation already struggling. Some 200,000+ people were killed, and a million more were left homeless.
Much has been written about Haiti’s struggles since the earthquake, including the shortcomings of the effort to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake -about money that was misspent by NGOs, or promised by foreign governments and not delivered, and about the cholera outbreak caused by Nepali troops from the United Nations.
In many respects this last year was even worse for Haiti than the year before: anti-government demonstrations, crime and kidnapping are on the rise and hurricanes Isaac and Sandy devastated the island. In the U.S. we didn’t hear much about Sandy and Isaac’s impact in Haiti, but it is estimated that in the southern part of Haiti, 70% of the agriculture was completely destroyed. As a result, food prices in Haiti have increased 40% in the last four months and food shortages are expected to affect up to 5 million people in Haiti in 2013.
What does all this mean for the 70+ communities where Plant With Purpose works? They, too, have been deeply affected by these many tragedies, especially the recent hurricanes, and we have been raising emergency funds to help farmers recover from the storms. In general, there is a lot of work to do, and in many ways life is harder in rural Haiti than ever before.
But we have also been deeply encouraged by impact our program is having in rural Haiti. In the months after the earthquake, Plant With Purpose’s local Haiti staff was able to dramatically scale up the scope of their work with funds raised through earthquake relief. This included planting 450,000 additional trees and building 360 linear miles of rock walls to conserve soil on steep hillside farms.
2,500 people found short-term employment through the Cash for Work program
These projects not only provided jobs for Haitians after the quake, they also saved many lives by preventing flooding and landslides after hurricane Sandy. You can read the summary of our earthquake relief work here. After the earthquake and in the three years since, Plant With Purpose local all-Haitian staff has performed with great professionalism and skill as they empower local farmers to improve their lives.
Soil conservation walls saved farms and lives during the most recent hurricane season
We received more good news this last year, when we completed our triennial impact evaluation. The evaluations revealed in our program areas that water-borne illness was reduced by over 50% and cholera by over 60%. While the news focuses on the failures of governments, the UN and so on, its good to be reminded that there are many organizations there doing good work that focuses on empowering Haitians to transform their own communities. These include the schools and orphanages run by Haiti Partners and medical work of Partners in Health. In the coming year we are looking forward to dramatically increasing the scope of the village savings and loan program, which is provides a safe and secure mechanism for Haitians to save money and access small business loans.
For those of you who have supported Plant With Purpose’s work in Haiti in recent years, please know how grateful we are for your partnership with us. Yes, there is a long way to go. But it is also true that, with God’s help, Plant with Purpose’s work is making a difference in the lives of thousands of Haitians struggling against long odds to improve their communities.