In Face of Huge Obstacles, Signs of Progress in Haiti

Jan 10, 2011, 12:29 ET from Concern Worldwide US

One-year anniversary of quake is just the first bend in a long road to recovery

NEW YORK, Jan. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Haiti continues to face enormous challenges one year after a devastating earthquake struck Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010—but significant progress has been made, said Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide, the international humanitarian organization.

The international community has successfully met the basic survival needs of over 1.3 million people in the past year—delivering food, water, emergency shelter, essential survival items—such as kitchen sets and mosquito nets—sanitation, and nutrition and health care services.

Concern—active in Haiti since 1994— has directly assisted 130,000 people in the wake of the earthquake—providing shelter, food, hygiene and sanitation facilities, emergency supplies, and cash-for-work programs. Concern currently manages 13 camps. In 2011, the focus will be in particular on rehabilitating communities and developing livelihood opportunities.

"In a densely populated urban context, with staggering levels of poverty and poor infrastructure before the earthquake," said Arnold, "the fact that we have been able to improve access to some types of essential services for the population of Port-au-Prince is worthy of recognition."

However, the earthquake delivered a catastrophic setback to Haiti's economic and human development. "The world rushed in to help Haiti in the weeks directly after the earthquake—but we knew then, and we must emphasize now, that the damage and suffering caused by this 'megadisaster' were crippling. This anniversary is an opportunity to point out that Haiti will require far more than one year to recover," Arnold said.

Concern honors the memory of the 230,000 people who lost their lives in the earthquake one year ago—and pays tribute to the extraordinary courage and resilience of the Haitian people who are at the heart of their country's recovery. Their strength is the force that will drive Haiti beyond this tragedy.  

Long-term success will depend on collaboration across the board, Arnold said: "Concern welcomes the opportunity to constructively engage with the new Haitian government and urges it to work with reconstruction and development stakeholders (donors, UN, NGOs, and the private sector) to approve a joint, comprehensive settlement and shelter strategy and operational plan to address the housing needs of 1.3 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) still living in spontaneous (formal and informal) settlements."

Concern is playing a very active role on the shelter and settlement front. Designed and operated by Concern, Tabarre Issa, the first official re-settlement site—on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince—is a microcosm of the challenges Haiti faces in its recovery. "Its success may just hold a recipe that, if scaled up, could help accelerate recovery efforts elsewhere," said Arnold.

Managing the settlement, Concern and its partners are confronting all of the same thorny issues that will be vital to recovery in greater Port-au-Prince so far—from ensuring rubble removal to providing education and health care, and from creating good relations between settlement residents and host communities to preventing crime and gender-based violence. 

By mid-year, Concern will have constructed close to 1,500 new safe, high-quality sturdy structures in place of tents. Tabarre Issa and its surrounding villages will be home to a burgeoning community that did not exist a year ago. "There is no easy way– the obstacles are still immense—but Tabarre Issa may just hold the beginnings of a real way forward for Haiti," Arnold said.

CONTACT: Joop Koopman of Concern Worldwide US, +1-212-557-8000, +1-917-608-1989 (m),

SOURCE Concern Worldwide US