January 12 was the fourth anniversary of the terrible earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010 causing more than 220 thousand deaths. Four year after the disaster that devastated the already unstable country, AVSI is still building for the future. So many things have changed, the reconstruction, which started with a lot of troubles, is now changing the face of the capital city and of the island as a whole. But many challenges remain to be addressed.“It is necessary that the international community and donors do not leave Haiti” – this is the appeal of Fiammetta Cappellini, responsible for AVSI projects in the island – “Now it’s time for another step: from the physical reconstruction of houses and infrastructures to the “reconstruction of the human person” so that the affected people can lead a dignified life”.
The current Haitian setting shows: over 170 thousand displaced people, 600 thousand Haitians living in food insecurity conditions, more than 50 thousand new cases of infection caused by cholera each year. All this is in addition to an already vulnerable economy: “Development indicators in the country remain low, some even negative. Most of the population lives below the poverty line and human rights, even the most basic ones, are not guaranteed” Fiammetta continues “Unfortunately, the cholera epidemic that has been plaguing the country for more than three years causing thousands of victims, has not been eradicated yet.
The means to address it properly lack as well as hospitals and health centers. Moreover, there is no sufficient access to drinking water. Maybe in 2014, the Haitian general election, that has been postponed during the past 18 months, will take place. This could be a moment of tension but, at the same time, a turning point towards normalization”.
AVSI team in Haiti, led by AVSI Country representative Fiammetta Cappellini, has been close to the affected population since the days soon after the earthquake by implementing activities to fight malnutrition and to rebuild community structures. During the last 4 years, AVSI has built and set up 19 new structures: seven schools, two educational centers, six nutritional centers, three workshops for clothes design, bead-work, iron-shaping and a community restaurant. This work has been possible thanks to a staff of around 180 people, operating in difficult and often extreme conditions and the cooperation of the AVSI network, AVSI supporters as well as the valuable contribution of donors, both public and private, who have never stopped believing in Haiti’s future.
“Those who like AVSI have been working in the island country for many years, those engaged in development cooperation, and not in emergency, have more opportunities to create a relationship with the community –Fiammetta claims – “We have the tools to know our beneficiaries and to make us know”.
The path towards rebuilding the country is long and hard. Since 2010, huge steps have been taken, the rebuilding program started up by AVSI begins to bear fruit and improvements are felt by the community. The number of homeless people has fallen by 90% since the days after the disaster. The rebuilt schools are working now and children can be taught. Haitians have learned to farm the lands, and to work thanks to the three workshops created by AVSI in order to boost local economy and development. The meeting with AVSI has been providential for many Haitians, as in the case of young Ebens, an artisan that AVSI staff go to know in one of the camps for earthquake victims a few months after the disaster. The earthquake destroyed everything he had built in a few seconds: his house, his small workshop an all his work tools.
Fiammetta Cappellini tells that “We proposed him to join our program Ateliers (Workshops): a common place to work, to produce and to train. We put a place at his disposal and the main tools and Ebens provided his knowledge and expertise to others. Today, after 3 years, he is a well known artisan in the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and his works have been showcased and sold also in foreign countries. But he is also a master for many young people of the slum”. In a few weeks, he will set up a cooperative together with other artisans who, like him, have become economically independent.
AVSI in Haiti in figures over the last 4 years:
• 40,000 people supported through the provision of basic services and the distribution of supplies (tents, food, water, clothes, access to education, health and nutrition centers) in 2010 • 19 structures built: 7 schools, 6 nutritional centers, 2 educational centers, 3 workshops for clothes design, bead-work, iron-shaping and 1 community restaurant. • 1 aqueduct restored to provide safe drinking water to 10,000 people • 10 nutrition centers operating, 4 in the capital city and 6 in Les Cayes, serving 15,000 malnourished children under the age of 5, pregnant and nursing mothers • 1,500 children supported to attend school in about 100 local public and private schools • 40,000 children have received school supply kits (notebooks, textbooks, backpacks) • 9,000 farmers have received training, technical assistance and material supplies (tools, seeds) • 120,000 medical supplies distributed to about 12,000 beneficiaries • 36,000 infants supported through fortified complementary food