May 14, 2010

Children’s laughter returns to Haiti

By |14 May 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier in Haiti “The children’s laughter just changes the atmosphere, it is the most therapeutic thing in the world ! Since we started with activities for the little ones, things have really changed around here,” says David Valeus. He has a ball in one hand and a paintbrush in the other one. Life is coming back to the camps where 600,000 people have found shelter since the 12 January earthquake in Haiti. It has been as important for many survivors to recreate a normal social atmosphere in the camps as it has been to receive basic livelihoods and services. This can be seen in the “Zamis Timouns” (the children’s friends) centres for children. David Valeus has been in charge of the programmes for children in the Bureau des Mines camp since its opening in March. Now, he spends most of his time running after his daily young visitors. He looks a bit [...]

April 30, 2010

Haitians making a living through cash-for-work

By |30 April 2010|

Many Haitians have been left jobless after the dramatic quake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12, claiming the lives of over 225,000 people. Two months after the event, employment is one of the most pressing issues in Haiti. Cash-for-work programmes remain the most significant sources of income in a country where up to 70 percent of the population was unemployed before the quake. Since January, Caritas is supporting the temporary employment of scores of Haitians. “I need money! My family needs money! I am a trained nurse and paradoxical as it may seem in a country where so many people need medical assistance, it’s impossible for me to find a job,” explains Belonise Edouard, 37. “I have sent dozens of CVs but never got any answer. Cash-for-work is my only option right now. I have children to feed!” adds the mother of three. Belonise was enrolled in Caritas cash-for-work programmes on [...]

Graffiti for change in Haiti

By |30 April 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier Graffiti artist Jerry has been covering the walls of Haiti’s relief camps with his works of art. His objective is tough is to encourage the Haitians to apply basic hygiene principles. “I am spraying for change. It is my mission to talk to the Haitian people,” says Jerry. He has a spray can in his hand and is looking at a wall he is covering with colorful graffiti. In the blazing sun, the young street artist’s forehead is covered with sweat. Restless, he is drawing one grinning character after another, all of them with impeccable clean hands, on the surrounding wall of the relief camp in Nazon. 5,000 people have found shelter in this camp since the earthquake. In this remote site where humanitarian aid has barely started to arrive, people are curious and enthusiastic about the artist’s performance. “It’s Jerry, it’s him, it’s Jerry, that is what he looks like!” [...]

Helping children in Haiti rebuild their lives

By |30 April 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier, Communications Officer in Haiti Protecting children remains a priority after the 12 January earthquake in Haiti. Four out of ten people are under 14 years old. The disaster threatens a child population that was already very vulnerable before the disaster. Caritas child protection staff reach more than 2,000 children with counselling in five locations in Bureau des Mines, Solino and Pétionville Club camps. Counselling has been set up to help children and give them back some normality in their lives. “After an incident as traumatizing as this earthquake, it is essential to offer counselling to the children,” said Caritas counsellor Joseph Vilton. He worked as a psychologist in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake, and is now working in the children centres Caritas set up in different relief camps in Port-au-Prince. The symptoms can be acute stress, nightmares, emotional distress, behavioural disorders or attention deficits. Specialists believe that it is urgent to [...]

March 31, 2010

Resettling earthquake survivors in Haiti

By |31 March 2010|

Following Haiti’s earthquake in January 1.3 million people are homeless. They are spread across 200 camps and they live in desperately precarious situations. As the rainy season arrives it is essential to resettle these vulnerable people.  “These tents are spacious! At least we’ll stay dry tonight. But we’re so far from the centre of the city...” says Franz Altidor. Along with his mother, brother and sister, Franz is one of the many homeless who are taking their chances on the windy plains of La Corail. This is where people have been sent from camps in Port-au-Prince which are at risk of flooding. Holding his travel bag in his hands, teenage Franz takes in the scene. There is a UN tractor flattening out the ground, helicopters come and go overhead and rows of latrines poke out from the rock and sand. Over 7,500 people will come to live at La Corail over the [...]

Haiti between emergency and reconstruction

By |31 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier Since the 12 January earthquake, emergency aid was centred on the Port-au-Prince area, often at the expense of rural regions close to the capital that were also very hard-hit by the disaster. At a time when everybody talks about reconstruction, emergency issues still need to be addressed.  With her hands full of dishes, a woman is trying to make her way through piles of rubble and iron pieces on the ground. She puts them down on a batch of stones, already burning hot in the morning because of the sun. It is her improvised shelf in the middle of the ruins that used to be her house. Next to that are an old pan and some cutlery, the only things she has left from her kitchen. In between linen and clothes, a family is living on the muddy ground under a piece of cloth as shelter. Apart from that, [...]

Haiti two months later: shelter key concern

By |26 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier, Caritas Communications Officer, Port-au-Prince Two months after a massive earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, leaving over 200,000 people dead, shelter for the displaced has become a major issue in Haiti. Caritas focuses on the distribution of emergency shelter kits and works on relocating relief camps out of the capital. “Finally a tarpaulin to cover the house ! Tonight, our family will get better sleep,” said Mimose Petit. She holds firmly onto the orange and silver plastic tarpaulin she just received from Caritas. She tries to attach it on the wooden structure that gives her shelter, her “house” as she calls it. “However, we do not have anything to cover the floor. So when it starts to rain, as it did last night, the water comes in and floods the entire place”, she said. Desperate, she points to the pile of clothes that is barely getting dry on a tent close by. Mimose has been [...]

First torrential rains blocking emergency aid in Haiti

By |26 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier “Mud, mud, mud! There is mud everywhere! This place is a big mess,“ says Guylaine. Her feet are covered with mud. The rain has softened up the earth. With a dazed look, the old woman stares at what is left of her shelter, that was made of a pile of old clothes and sheets. Now, they are on the ground, in dirty water puddles that have formed all over the Pétionville Club Camp. First torrential rains have struck Port-au-Prince in the night of March 18, flooding roads, dwellings, buildings and most of all, the many makeshift camps around the city. Since the earthquake, the capital has not seen this type of bad weather very often. The Pétionville Club is a huge golf course where almost 40,000 displaced people settled in an overcrowded makeshift camp after the earthquake. The situation in the camp is critical. It is particularly ill-adapted [...]

Haiti’s regions struggling to cope with displaced people

By |23 March 2010|

By Mathilde Magnier More than 600,000 people have fled the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in search of shelter, food and solidarity after an earthquake devastated the city on January 12. The affected regions are struggling to cope with the massive arrival of refugees. In the small coastal town of Jérémie in the south of the island, the situation is particularly bad. Jérémie’s inhabitants are worried. “Look at this house. It has two rooms and a dozen people have to live here. It’s been like this for the last two months and very frankly, I don’t know how we can continue to feed everybody!” complains Willine Janvier. She is sitting on the porch of her wooden shack in the small town of Moron, a few kilometres away from Jérémie, where she lives with her four youngest children. In the aftermath of the earthquake, Willine and her husband have seen their five oldest children arrive [...]

On the menu for children in Haiti

By |12 March 2010|

The risks to children following Haiti’s earthquake include not only trafficking but also hunger. Up to 24 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition in Haiti. In poorer areas, this figure is even greater. One of Caritas’ priorities in the earthquake’s aftermath has been to supply regular food to the survivors. So far, Caritas has provided 600,000 people with food. The Sainte Marie community in Port-au-Prince is one of the places Caritas has been giving out food to children. Today they are waiting for a hot meal consisting of rice, beans and meat. “Until two weeks ago, I didn’t used to eat regular meals,” says Géraldine, 14. “Now the food distributions have started in the community, my parents are reassured because they know I’ll eat at least once a day.” Over 5000 people have taken refuge in the Sainte Marie community in search of food and shelter. In collaboration with the [...]

School’s out in Haiti – but hopefully not forever

By |12 March 2010|

Most pupils like to get a day off school, but for Haiti’s children it’s not just a day but months. January’s earthquake destroyed 90 percent of schools, leaving children without an education “The schools must be reopened, children have to go back to their studies as quickly as possible,” says Fr Zucchi, head of four schools run by Salesians in Cité Soleil, one of the poorest areas of Port-au-Prince. “Children should be coming back into class at least in our schools at the beginning of April, once Easter is over.” Fr Zucchi is already planning the rebuilding of his schools. The list of things to do is long: clear away all the debris, assess the buildings which are still standing, buy materials for rebuilding and also teaching and put up temporary classrooms while the work is being done. Caritas is financing and supporting the rebuilding of the schools, just as it has [...]

January 19, 2010

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    Interview with Bishop Pierre Dumas, President of Caritas Haiti

Interview with Bishop Pierre Dumas, President of Caritas Haiti

By |19 January 2010|

I was visiting parts of my diocese the day before the earthquake. To get to one place I had to cross a lot of rivers. As we crossed one the water was “bubbling” and there were waves. We decided to stay that night at the diocesan training centre in Matean which is near the sea. But during the night waves started to hit the building and I thought “this is a tsunami!” The next day I returned to Port-au-Prince and ten minutes after I got out of the car the earthquake happened. There was a big bang and the house jumped , and I didn’t even have time to get out of the door before everything calmed down. Everyone came out onto the street. One of the first things I did was to try and contact my staff and reassure them. I told them not to be frightened and that this [...]

December 2, 2009

Rebuilding: Hurricane Survivors Move on With Caritas Help

By |2 December 2009|

Rolande Jean’s home sits a few feet from the edge of the Caribbean Sea, between the small town of Nippes, Haiti and, in September 2008, directly in the path of Hurricane Ike. When the Category 4 storm roared ashore, Jean huddled with her husband and children in their small wooden house, and bore the brunt of the storm’s fury. “The house was very badly damaged,” Jean said. “The river flooded the house, and the roof was torn completely off. We were in the house when it happened.” Forced from their home, the family took shelter with a neighbor across the street on higher ground, above the floodwaters left in the wake of the storm. Coming as it did on the heels of Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna, which wreaked havoc across Haiti, Ike was the last straw for many in this impoverished nation. In Nippes alone, nearly 1,400 homes were damaged or [...]

Haiti 2009: Back in Class

By |2 December 2009|

Soft spoken and demure, Junor Hesgazons leans intently into his schoolwork, his eyes casting constantly to the chalkboard as the day’s lesson takes shape. His white collared shirt neatly creased despite the humidity of southern Haiti, Hesgazons looks every bit the engineer he hopes one day to be. “I like to study engineering. I like mathematics and physics,” Hesgazons said. “I would like to build roads and bridges as a civil engineer.” But for Hesgazons, that journey thus far has been a hard one. Growing up poor near the city of Les Cayes, Hesgazons has struggled throughout his life to stay in school. For he and his family, as with many across Haiti, the $70 yearly school fees are a major burden. “Before, a family friend helped me [with fees], but he cannot afford to help me anymore,” Hesgazons said. When Hurricane Ike came ashore in September 2008, those difficulties were compounded. Across [...]

September 3, 2009

Haiti stuck in Groundhog Day

By |3 September 2009|

When was Haiti last in the news? You’ll probably have to wrack your brains before remembering that it last made the headlines in September 2008 when a series of tropical storms caused massive flooding and mudslides. Five months later, NGOs are wrapping up their emergency programmes and pulling out. No news on Haiti and the NGOs are going, so everything must be fine. Not quite. “People still aren’t in safe housing,” says William Canny, Country Representative for Caritas member Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “Buildings are still covered in mud. And what’s more, some of the issues that led to the mudslides haven’t been dealt with.” Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. With its few resources it has to combat problems such as massive social inequalities, episodes of social unrest, hunger, lack of development and environmental degradation. On top of this, it lies in the Caribbean’s hurricane path and every [...]