Category Archives: Disaster Risk Reduction

How television inspired a neighborhood to take action

Martha and I recently returned from a four day trip to northwest Haiti.  I always enjoy traveling; one of the perks of the job.  Sure there are long days spent on dusty roads but getting to see different parts of the country and meeting interesting people in these places makes it well worth it.

One World Concern project in this part of the country is working to establish storm shelters, repair a water system, build canals and gabions, and set up basic waste management systems, all while partnering with local committees.

A person we met on our trip is Juré.  He’s a middle-aged guy with five sons.  He lives in the city of Port-de-Paix and is the president of the sanitation committee in his neighborhood. We had an interesting and varied conversation with Juré, and I wanted to share some of it with you including how television inspired his neighborhood to take action.   Our relatively brief interaction shows the challenges of changing people’s behavior, the ingenuity of low income folks, some general perceptions, and the value of supporting local efforts to bring change.  I hope you enjoy this peak into our conversation and do please share your thoughts.  (Just fyi, these are not direct quotes but rather a collection of questions and answers based on my notes during our conversation.)

Wisley, the World Concern community mobilizer, introduced us to Juré.  His gave a firm handshake.  He was short but his broad build seemed to be an outward reflection of his confidence and determination.  He led us through a series of narrow pathways in the neighborhood until we reached his house, a simple cement home with a little porch.

Juré

Juré on his porch

Austin: How long have you lived in Jerilon (a neighborhood of Port-de-Paix)?

Juré: I’ve lived here more than 15 years.

A: And how long have you served as president of the sanitation committee?

J: Since three years.

A: How was the committee formed?

J: We saw on television how when other countries have a problem, they formed a committee and so we tried to do the same.

A: What is the objective of the sanitation committee?

J: The objective is to change the image of this neighborhood.

A: What are the activities of the committee?

J: To clean the neighborhood and work with children by teaching them how to live.  There are ten people on the committee but it is not enough to clean everything.  The community has many young people but some others do not want to help.

A: Why don’t they want to help?

J: There are always bad people not matter where you are.  People think we [committee] are connected with NGOs and have money to give them but it’s not true.

A: What assistance did World Concern give the committee?

Port-de-Paix, Sanitation,Canal_223

J: We now have shovels, hammers and wheelbarrows [gesturing towards the wheelbarrows stacked on his front porch].  When it rains trash comes back in the canal so we use them to get the trash and bring it to the dumpster.  Then we call the government service to pick it up.  They eventually come.

A: What about the new [recently installed] waste bins?

J: People use the bins in a good way.

A: Do people use them consistently or still throw the trash in the sea or canal?

J: Sometimes people throw trash elsewhere; everywhere there are bad people.

A: What do you do for work?

J: I am a mason and can tile but have not had steady work for three years.

A: Can you tell me about your family?

J: I have five children—all boys.  Here is the fourth one, over there [pointing to a teen boy with headphones standing with some friends].

A: Anything else you would like to say?

J: World Concern is our main backup in this area and can help us bring change here.

The new (and clean) canal along the main street in Jerilon

This may look like just a canal, but this canal along the main street in Jerilon will prevent flooding in people’s homes when it rains.  It’s kept clean and unclogged (a key in it’s effectiveness) thanks to Juré and the sanitation committee.

The value of supporting local efforts

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) discuss with the other members in the background.

Marseille (left) and Jean (right) chat.  The other members are in the background.

In Haiti I am learning how crucial it is to work through existing channels, whether government or non-government partners, when implementing a project.  The sad reality is that in Haiti some (not all) projects fail to achieve the long term impact envisioned at the beginning.  This happens for a variety of reasons however one is that organizations and ministries often do not put the effort into understanding what channels or systems or initiatives already exist within a given community and then working through and alongside them.

Since Haiti is impoverished it may be tempting to assume that functioning channels do not exist but this just isn’t true!

One example is a local organization in the village of Lavaneau in south east Haiti.

I first visited Lavaneau in June 2012 on our initial trip to Haiti with World Concern before moving here permanently.  The community’s irrigation canal had been destroyed during hurricanes in 2008 and they were left to rely on rainfall for all their water needs.  World Concern offered materials and technical support but the organization was responsible for the construction and management of the canal that brought water down from the source and for four newly built water fountains.

canal_lavaneau1

A couple weeks ago Martha and I had the opportunity to return to Lavaneau and were pleased to see the irrigation canal and four water fountains still serving the community.  But I was more pleased to see the quality of this local organization which World Concern worked with on the project and how they are still active, with no plans to slow down.

The organization is headed by a man named Jean Metelus.  He commands respect but is not intimidating.  When we arrived on this particular day he and other members of the organization, including the secretary, greeted us.

As we reached the canal and began chatting, Jean instructed the secretary to take notes of our meeting.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

Organization members share about the project and their work.

“The organization will celebrate its 23rd year of existence in 2014,” Jean shared.

Continuing he said, “Our organization has farmers, engineers, teachers, masons, pastors.  We work on projects in agriculture, small business, buildings.”

What tremendous human capital!  It was encouraging to hear the organization speak of the skills and resources that exist in the community and it was particularly impressive that these have been so clearly identified.  Although each community possesses certain strengths and resources, not all know exactly what those are and who has them within the community.

In addition to constructing a new irrigation canal that is 92 meters in length and four water points, the organization established a system for collecting fees which are used to help maintain this infrastructure and fund other projects in the community.

Farmers pay a small annual fee and in return can have access to two hours of water a week.  The water is disbursed by small gates that are built into the canal.  When a gate is lifted, water flows from the canal into the farmer’s field.  When we visited, some of the gates were not working properly but the organization says they plan to fix them.

The water collected at the four water points is free however a family can pay a fee of almost $2 a month if they want water piped directly to their home.

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

Girls collect water at one of the four water fountains

One thing that caught my eye was how clean the canal was.  I saw very little leaves or rubbish in the canal.  In Haiti canals are often used as dumping grounds.  I asked one community member about the cleanliness and he responded, “People are responsible for cleaning the section of canal in front of their house.”  This is an example of the far reaching impact this organization has had in the community.

When we were leaving Lavaneau I asked Marseille, World Concern’s project coordinator in south east Haiti, what it was about this organization that made it work.

“The strength of this organization is its history and that its members equally represent all 18 localites [small villages] within Lavaneau,” he said.  “Everyone in Lavaneau has a say.”

What do you think the outcome of this project would have been if World Concern came to Lavaneau and began work how they saw fit without consulting and working through this local organization?  At best the physical work would have been completed and may have lasted for a couple years before deteriorating.  At worst the project could have completely flopped early on leaving the community disempowered, disenchanted and still without consistent access to potable water.

I am not so naïve to believe that this local organization in Lavaneau is without flaw or that World Concern always does things well.  However I will say that World Concern in Haiti does understand the importance of community based action and the need for working through and supporting existing channels and Lavaneau is an example of this.

As we were preparing to leave Lavaneau one representative from the organization asked, “What do you think of our work?”

“It is good.  It is very good,” I said.

Driving through Lavaneau

Driving through Lavaneau

Happy International DRR Day

DRR Day Intro -blog

Today we celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction.  I have to say that before coming to World Concern, I was not really aware of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and the magnitude of its importance.  I knew that prevention was important but I often only thought of it within the realm of health.   The more I see and hear about DRR and the devastating impact of hurricanes and other disasters, the more I believe that we can no longer be a people of reaction.  We have to think ahead–imagine the unimaginable.  Not for the sake of freaking ourselves out and burdening ourselves with worry but for the sake of being prepared and preventing unnecessary loss.

“Every time something very dramatic happens we hear people say, ‘Oh we could not have imagined that this would happen.’  So I would say really the first thing that we have to do is to start imagining what can happen.  To actually acknowledge that this may happen to me as well.” 1

– Margareta Wahlstrom
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction

DRR is one of World Concern’s largest focuses here in Haiti.  Community meetings, trainings, building canals.  Yes, it’s nowhere near as glamorous as digging wells or giving goats to young children so they can go to school (both of which are very important to development), but sometimes we need to take off our “I-only-see-glamorous-development glasses” and ask ourselves what is important.

So what does DRR actually look like?  Take a look at some ways World Concern is working to decrease the risks and improve preparedness vulnerable communities in Northwest Haiti.

11-DRR Training for Staff_NW Haiti_CIDRR Presentation Photos_2013Knowledge is power safety   Community Mobilizers are trained in topics related to DRR as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).  They then go into the communities to hold trainings in order to raise awareness and increase preparedness among the vulnerable population.

16A-Canal Construction Djerilon_NW Haiti_CIDRR Presentation Photos_2013Canals to prevent flooding   This canal in the community of Jerilon, which is located in the city of Port-de-Paix, is one of several being constructed in Northwest Haiti to prevent flooding in surrounding homes.   They are carefully built at the right capacity and strength to handle heavy rains during rainy season and hurricanes.

Loading Materials_NW Haiti_CIDRR_8-13__26A shelter during natural disaster   Roofing materials are loaded into a truck headed for Northwest Haiti.  There, schools and church buildings are renovated to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes to ensure the whole community has a safe shelter to go to during the next natural disaster.

SchoolsPreparedness in schools   We are working with schools in five different communities in the city of Port-de-Paix to create emergency plans that they can use in the case of disaster.  Administrators and teachers are also given training in disaster management.

Xavier Alix farmer_NW Haiti_CEDRA_5-13Agricultural security   In 2012, drought caused $20 billion dollars of economic loss in the Americas.  Yes, billion.  Drought resistant seeds which require less water can help farmers like Xavier Alix feed his family despite changing weather patterns.

So Happy International Day for Disaster Reduction!  Thanks for taking the time to be informed and consider imagining the unimaginable.

Want to dig deeper?

*  I would recommend this 5-minute video based on the 2013 Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction.  It touches on some of the different issues in DRR across the world today.

*  This is not just an issue affecting Haiti.  It must be considered in the US too.  This Guardian article talks of urban areas like New York, Boston, and Miami and the dangerous combination of their high risk of flooding and low preparedness.  “Inaction, could lead to losses in excess of $1 trillion a year [across the world].”

Development is about people not stuff

Since coming to Haiti, I have been consistently reminded of how important relationships are when working in community development.  Although we all would like there to be quick solutions to huge problems, this just is not the reality especially when dealing with people.  And development is all about people.  It seems obvious but it can be easy to forget when success is determined by numbers–canals repaired, latrines built and drought resistant seeds distributed.  Simply put development is about people not stuff and since it is about people, relationships are key.

La Plate Meeting13

The road to La Plate–treacherous in spots but plenty of beauty for your eyes to feast on.

Most of World Concern’s work is in rural areas throughout Haiti.  One of the perks (and joys) of my job is getting to travel and visit World Concern’s projects.  Not only does this give me a break from the computer and the busyness of the city, I also get to see firsthand how World Concern is investing in relationships and working to empower people.

When visiting a community, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a meeting with key leaders and others from the area to discuss the project and to get their input.  Such meetings often occur under a tree, in a church or school or inside someone’s home.  The hospitality is top notch.  In preparation, chairs may be neatly set up and organized or a handful of flowers placed in a jar on a table.  Attending are often local World Concern staff, pastors, teachers, farmers and elected community leaders called the Casec and Asec.  I have learned heaps during these meetings about all kinds of stuff: planting seasons, small town drama, weather, faith, struggles, joys, and even how to ‘properly’ eat a mango.  They are fascinating and crucial to the process of encouraging, strengthening and building the capacity of people in Haiti.  These meetings are also an important way that World Concern builds relationships.

La Plate Meeting9

The stunning high ceilings and interior of the Catholic Church in La Plate where we met with the community.

I have been wanting to share about these meetings for some time and the fruit they produce but honestly was having a hard time figuring out how to do it.  How do I show the impact of a two hour meeting?  The pictures alone don’t clearly tell the story.  And meetings don’t have a reputation for being fascinating or intriguing.  Well, on a recent trip to northwest Haiti I had an idea.  While we were sitting in a beautiful old church in the village of La Plate and listening to community members and the local civil protection committee talk about the hazards and risks they face and how a World Concern project was helping them become less vulnerable, I wished so badly that you could be there too to witness what was happening.  Although there are some pretty serious logistical barriers to making that happen, I wanted to try and bring the meeting to you.  So here is the ‘play-by-play’ of our day in La Plate and specifically our meeting with the community.

Oh, a little context–in La Plate World Concern (with funding from Tearfund UK) has built a canal that directs flood waters away from homes and prevents erosion, and is working to train and equip the local civil protection committee who is responsible for keeping the community safe.  On this trip we traveled with colleagues from World Concern as well as three Tearfund UK staff.

La Plate Meeting11

No confusion about where you are.  This sign greets you as you approach La Plate and is the last thing you see as you leave.  

Canal Mitigation_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A portion of the canal built by World Concern and the community.  Water can now flow more easily across the road and into the ravine on the other side, making the road passable during the rainy season.

Sign_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A local artist painted this plaque which explains how the mitigation project was realized by the local civil protection committee (CLPC) with the help of World Concern and Tearfund.  He even managed to fit in the World Concern logo (bottom left)!

 La Plate Meeting1

La Plate’s Catholic Church–a place of worship and gatherings.  One man guessed that the church was built in the 1950s.

La Plate Meeting2

There were about 18 people in attendance, not including World Concern and Tearfund staff.  Here, David from Tearfund introduces himself.  Most meetings I’ve been a part of in rural Haiti begin with introductions–which have been known to take awhile!

La Plate Meeting5

La Plate Meeting3

 

 

 

 

Starting with prayer (left) and then the World Concern project manager for the work in La Plate greets everyone and thanks them for their participation (right).

La Plate Meeting4

“The local committee’s function is to work in disaster to protect the population and help people,” explains Naissance Frantz, the Casec (elected leader) in La Plate.  

La Plate Meeting8

“What’s going on in there?”

La Plate Meeting6

“We receive many training and now we know lots of things to help the community.  We could write a book,” said one community member regarding the trainings about reducing risk given by World Concern.

La Plate Meeting7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The first priority is training; to know what is coming.  We now can do something to be protected,” shared another man.

Christian_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

When asked what resources the community has Petit-frére Christian, the Asec (another elected leader) in La Plate responded, ““We have water, land, people, rocks.  People can climb the trees to make charcoal, we have teachers, farmers, small business owners, health workers.”  It was powerful to hear the community share their strengths and what resources they possess.   

La Plate Meeting12

A house near the church where we met.  You’ll notice a solar panel leaning up against a small chair.  We learned that this is how many people in La Plate charge their mobile phones.  It costs 2 Haitian Gourdes, about 5 cents, for a full charge.

La Plate Meeting10

A couple car fulls of people visiting La Plate drew a lot of attention!  After our meeting finished we got a quick tour of the village before leaving.

Mountain View_La Plate NW Haiti_Tearfund GRD_5-13

A common Haitian proverb says, “Dèyè mòn, gen mòn.”  Behind the mountain, there are mountains.

Our visit to La Plate reminded me that development is about investing in people and then allowing them to make their own decisions about how to improve their lives.  In La Plate we saw how these investments are paying off as the local civil protection committee is now better prepared to identify risks and take steps to reduce their vulnerability to natural disaster.  No model or strategy or organization is perfect but I can say that World Concern’s desire to build relationships with communities and help them succeed is genuine and effective. 

Contrasts – Beauty & Injustice

In Haiti I am finding there are contrasts.  On one hand you see natural and human beauty, life, color, intrigue, laughter, and hope.  On the other is disparity, injustice, limited resources, and struggle.  The impression I get is that life is both precious and wonderful but also difficult and full of challenges.

I hope in this post, and in anything I write, to show both sides and provide accurate, honest observations.  If I focus primarily on the immense poverty, that is indeed real, I am not telling the complete story.  Likewise if I speak only of the moments of roaring laughter (also very real), and success and good times, then I am obviously living outside of reality.  If you hear tension in my words, that is okay; it is there.  As Martha and I adjust to living in a new culture and learning a new language, we are also adjusting to having the responsibility to communicate most truthfully what life is like here for the Haitians we are fortunate enough to meet.  As you can imagine this is a process that we are working out each day.

It is a great journey to be on because we are constantly learning new and interesting things.  I want to grow in my ability to accurately present the contrast (both sides) of life I see in Haiti so the best and most honest portrayal of Haitians can emerge.  They deserve it.  I share all this with you just to provide some insight into our process of becoming better and more well rounded storytellers.  Thanks for listening.

Office Sign_SE Haiti DRR1Martha and I returned recently from a trip to southeast Haiti that I think shows this contrast.  Haiti has ten Departments (think States or Provinces), the South East Department being one.  In the southeast, World Concern is meeting the needs of people through disaster response, disaster preparedness, and micro-credit.  We joined Bunet, World Concern’s Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinator, on this trip to see how we are providing clean water and preparing communities for future disasters.

I want to share with you about the commune (think collection of small communities) of Grand Gosier.  Grand Gosier is a rather isolated commune, near the sea and near the Dominican Republic border.  One reason it is so isolated is because of the poor condition of the road that leads to it.  From Jacmel, the big city in southeast Haiti, you must travel approximately 84 kilometers east to reach Grand Gosier.

Those 84 kilometers took us over four hours.  While rock crawling at a snails pace can be exhausting, the views are stunning.  This is one contrast I noticed on the trip–you have poor infrastructure yet stunning natural beauty.

Water_Grand Gosier SE 1

Once we arrived in Grand Gosier, we caught up with Pierre; the coordinator for the project in this commune.  He explained that the water system for the area, which includes new piping and water collection points, had been damaged by a storm in 2007.  Since then those not fortunate to live close to the water source have been forced to spend a lot of time and energy walking to reach water.  Even while we were visiting with Pierre, children and women walked past us carrying water.  All kinds of jugs, bottles, and containers are used to transport water.  Occasionally we saw someone guiding a donkey, loaded down with water, but the majority of people were walking.  It was early afternoon, and limited cloud cover meant it was a hot and dusty journey for them.  Soon, those long journey’s will not be necessary.  Once finished, the project will provide nine water collection points throughout the commune which will shorten the walk to water for many.

Women on their way home stop to watch the on-going water system work.

Women on their way home stop to watch the water system construction.

The long walk.

The long walk

As we were listening to Pierre speak about the project, I wondered what precautions were being taken to ensure that this time the water system will be more resilient against the next storm.  Unfortunately, hurricanes and heavy storms are all too common in southeast Haiti.  Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy in 2012 are the most recent reminders of the devastation such storms can cause.  Combined these two storms killed 87 and affected 205,623 people.  We cannot stop the rains and winds from coming, however we can be sure that communities are prepared as best as possible.

New metal pipes looking shiny in the sun.

New metal pipes looking shiny in the sun.

Pierre explained that the prior water system had used PVC for the piping, but his team is working to replace all the PVC with metal.  Though a seemingly small step, using metal  will be a huge step towards increasing the system’s and the community’s resiliency.

 

 

Girls fill up their containers with water at the community's lone water source.  Soon water from this source will be transported through pipes to other water points making collecting water easier on these girls.

Girls fill up their containers with water at the community’s lone water source. Soon water from this source will be transported through pipes to other water points making collecting water easier on these girls.

There is another contrast I saw.  It is dry season right now and therefore you have the land which at times looks tired and thirsty, yet you also have a water source waiting to be released and delivered to people throughout Grand Gosier.  When the repairs and construction are completed, this water system will provide clean water to people whatever storm or dry spell comes their way.

There is more I want to share from our trip to Grand Gosier and also someone I want to introduce, but I will close for now before this turns into a book.  Stay tuned for more about how World Concern is impacting lives in southeast Haiti.

 

“Saved to serve people”

Berlin Jean Photo1-SMALL

On a recent visit to the commune of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti, we had the opportunity to speak with Berlin Jean.  Berlin is currently working for World Concern as Shelter Manager for a disaster risk reduction project in the Port-de-Paix area.  He is a civil engineer by trade, 30 years old, and a lot of fun to be around.  Berlin is the kind of person that others gravitate towards.  The earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas on January 12 2010, also shook up Berlin’s life.  He graciously sat down with us and discussed how, as he puts it, “Jesus saved him to serve people.”  Berlin also shared with us about his current work with World Concern and how it is impacting communities in northern Haiti.

Austin: So January 12, 2010.  How did you start the day?  Do you remember what the morning was like?

Berlin: I remember.  I had a course, a class to teach in Delmas (a neighborhood in Port-au-Prince).  A course of physics.  And after teaching, I have the course at 12pm, when I finish there was a building, a university, in the same place as the college.  And I go to the fifth floor to work with some students you know.  And after some time, it seems there was someone that told me to go out.  It seems there was someone who told me, who asked me to go out and leave the building.  I feel something.

A: No one spoke to you?

B: No, no one.  I feel something would happen.  I told them, tomorrow, because I want to leave.  So I go out.  When I was arriving in the yard of the school, I was talking to my friends you know and after leaving the gate of the school I felt something…I felt something.  I didn’t understand because it was for the first time in Haiti we will have something like this.

A: What were you thinking when it first was shaking?

B: I didn’t understand.  I closed my eyes, I didn’t understand.  And after opening my eyes I didn’t see the school.  I said, “Oh my God what happened?”  And at the same time I saw all of my friends who were in the same class with me and everybody was dead.  I can say only me, only me was there…was still alive, only me.

A: How do you explain the feeling you had to leave the building?  Do you think its’ from God or is it something that just came to your mind?

[vimeo 58994100]
B: I know one of the reasons we have a lot of people died in Haiti is because of the bad manner of construction in Haiti.

As an engineer for example, I find a possibility to teach people, to train people; to say to them that when you construct you have to use the good materials, the good sand, because if something else will happens, I can’t say we will not have any victims but we will have less victims.  This is one of the ways I can serve people.

A: What project are you working on now? 

B: The title of my project is CIDRR, its Community Initiatives for Disaster Risk Reduction.  But there is three parts in this project.  There is water, sanitation and hygiene.  And there is shelter.  And protection of environment.  But me, I am working as manager for shelter.

A: What does this project hope to achieve for the people of Port-de-Paix?

B: Yes, you know the first time I come to Port-de-Paix I saw Port-de-Paix is very very very vulnerable.  You will visit the areas.  You will see how it is very very…for me it is the most vulnerable area in Haiti.

A: What makes it vulnerable?

B: You can see there is mountains around us okay.  Now, the people construct at the top of the mountain and it is bad construction.  They don’t really take, how can I say that, use good materials and so forth you know.

Now I have to visit the community shelters because if there is a storm the population leaves their house to come to the shelter; if the shelter is not good is not nothing.  And I will train the masons, okay I will train them to construct good houses and if there is one day something happen like an earthquake and the shelters have to resist okay.

A: How does World Concern in this project involve the community?  Do you speak to the community about what is needed?

B: Yes, yes.  We have a lot of meetings with the community. We have meetings too with the local authority.  You know we have a lot of meetings.

And we encourage them to participate, to give participation when we are working for them too.  For example in some community we find out about toilet and latrine.  But we won’t come and do the latrine for the people.  They can dig.  Yeah, they have to participate.

A: Have you been able to share your story with other people?

B: This story? Oh yes. Because for me it a very very interesting story.  You know, maybe if someone didn’t believe in God, after hearing this story he would say that “Oh maybe there is really a God.”  My story can help people to save themself.

A: For someone that has never been to Haiti, what would you want people to know about this place, about your country?  What would you share with them?

B: I hear that people say, “Please don’t come in Haiti because Haiti is a bad country.  There are a lot of insecurity, for example, in Haiti.  There are problems in Haiti. Haiti is a dirty country.  Haiti bad country.”  Me, I say to them, “No, no, no.”  The Haitian people is a good, good, very good people.

…I have to say that Haiti have some magnificent places.  Yes, Haiti is a very, very, very good country.  And I encourage people to come and to see if Haiti is a bad country.

A: Your story is giving people hope and encouragement about Haiti and what World Concern is doing here.  Thank you for sharing.

B: Me, I thank you. It’s for me to thank you and to thank World Concern too because in the name of all Haitian people, in the name of all my team, in the name of all employees of World Concern in Haiti, we thanks World Concern very much because it help.  Thank you, thank you very much.  May God bless World Concern, because I love World Concern.

Sandy & disaster prevention

Hurricane Sandy has ripped through the Caribbean the past few days, and Haiti has unfortunately been hit pretty hard.  According to Haiti’s Office of Civil Protection, the number of hurricane deaths has risen to 51 as of October 28.  In addition to the 51 deaths, there are 15 people missing, and 18 injured.  This is truly sad news, and we would ask you to pray with us for the people of Haiti during this time.

Flooding is a constant threat to people in Haiti when heavy rains come.  Here is a video from Reuters showing the damage flooding has caused in Haiti.

The situation is obviously quite dire in Haiti right now.  Storms like Sandy and Isaac (which killed nearly 30 people in August) highlight the need to focus on equipping families and providing resources to communities before a disaster strikes.  In development jargon, this is called disaster risk reduction (DRR).

A few months ago, Martha and I were in Haiti and had the opportunity to witness World Concern’s work in reducing the risk community’s face when a disaster comes.  This is exciting because taking even small preventative measures can save lives.

We saw this in practice in the village of Côtes-de-Fer, in southern Haiti.  Since this village is near the coast and in a low lying area, water from heavy rains used to sweep down the mountainside and flood the homes of those living in Côtes-de-Fer.  This was a major safety hazard for people in Côtes-de-Fer and disrupted their lives.  World Concern worked with community members to build a canal that is designed to direct water away from homes and into the ocean.


“The water used to flood my house,” said Dieudonné Felix, who lives in Côtes-de-Fer. “The last time it rained, the rainwater went straight to the sea. This is a big improvement.”

 

 

This is one way that World Concern is empowering communities and transforming lives in Haiti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It appears that hurricane Sandy is currently leaving the Caribbean and heading north.  However, for people in Haiti the challenges continue.  Pray that the waters would recede and that there would be no more deaths or injuries from the storm.  Also keep the World Concern Haiti staff in your prayers as they work hard to meet the needs of those affected by Sandy.

If you are interested, here is a short article from the Caribbean Journal about Hurricane Sandy in Haiti.