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Two years after Haiti's devastating earthquake,
Churches continue a long term recovery initiative

New York, January 12, 2012 – Today marks the second anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing an estimated 316,000 people and leaving than a million homeless.

Despite some signs of progress, more than half a million Haitians still live in temporary camps. According to the Rev. Canon Rosemari Sullivan, who coordinates National Council of Churches and Episcopal Church recovery efforts in Haiti, crowded conditions in the camps have led to a myriad of problems, including wide-spread sexual assault.

“We are working on a long-term recovery initiative around addressing violence against women by promoting an ecumenical effort to strengthen the work of grass roots women’s organizations and to facilitate links to the local faith community to help educate and partner on this issue,” said the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, program director for NCC Women’s Ministries

“This is a way that our member communions can help to strengthen the work of local grassroots women’s organizations by partnering with the local faith communities to address the violence and go deeper to work on the systemic roots of violence against women,” Tiemeyer said.

In an interview with NCC News, Sullivan said, “It is well documented by people on the ground that life in the camps for everyone has increased incidences of violence, particularly gender based violence to unprecedented levels.”

Groups in Haiti have been trying to equip 600,000 people in camps with flash lights, Sullivan said. “Solar lighting has been installed around the latrines in many camps. Those living in this situation, particularly the women, have begun to self organize to protect themselves and their children.”

Sullivan said the NCC is reaching out to its member communions “to develop ways of supporting and encouraging the churches to partner with grassroots organizations in Haiti to connect with these groups and give them additional help and encouragement to see them through this,” Sullivan said.

Transactional sex has increased in the camps as a means of acquiring food and other necessities, Sullivan said. “This is driven by an unemployment rate in Haiti that is more than 40 percent.”

Sullivan said the NCC is hoping to network with U.S. churches to support organizations on the ground in Haiti, including the Dominican Haitian Women’s Movement (MUDHA).

“MUDHA has been training women in self defense and how to report problems with the police,” she said. “We are also seeking an understanding with police in the area about the way they deal with assault victims. Some incremental progress is being made.”

Most of the work in camps is being carried out by relief and development organizations, including Church World Service, Episcopal Relief and Christian AID, Sullivan said.

“The challenge to the churches is to address what I consider a humanitarian disaster in Haiti,” she said.

Walking through the camps, aid workers get a sense of the indomitable spirit of many Haitians, Sullivan said.

“You quickly come across little businesses, barber shops, cafes, and stores that crop up in the camps,” she said. “People are very entrepreneurial. But when you get into the center of things and visit a group watching a TV that is running off a generator, it is heart breaking to see the elderly in these camps who have no one, nothing. Or to see a mother and father and three little kids, children close to starvation.”

The previous government in Haiti was often accused of impeding recovery efforts.

Although Haitian President Michel Martelly has made progress in leading recovery efforts, he has not been able to convince Parliament to extend the mandate of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, an international effort led by Haiti.

“The Haitian government badly needs a national strategy for creating permanent housing and jobs, to resettle people out of Port-au-Prince,” reported the New York Times prior to the two-year anniversary.

Churches and individuals looking for ways to help efforts in Haiti can contact the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer, NCC program director for Women’s Ministries: atiemeyer@ncccusa.org .

See also: Episcopal Church video on Haiti: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/multimedia

 

Pictures.

Above Left:

Classroom at College St. Pierre.  Close to 1,000 students are taught each day at College St. Pierre, adjacent to the Episcopal church of the same name, in Mirebalais, which is about 35 miles north of Port-au-Prince. The town of 100,000 grew by 60,000 in the days after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. Episcopal News Service Photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg

 

Above Right:

Feeding Children in Mirebalais.   A boy pauses during his lunch at College St. Pierre, adjacent to the Episcopal church of the same name, in Mirebalais. Close to 400 children get one hot meal a day at the school from the Haiti Micah Project, an ecumenical organization founded by the Rev. Joseph Constant who is a native Haitian priest canonically resident in of the Diocese of Massachusetts and one of two special coordinators for the Episcopal Church's Haiti Long Term Recovery Project.  Episcopal News Service Photo/Mary Frances Schjonberg



 



Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),
pjenks@ncccusa.org

 

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