Tearfund brings aid to remote families in Haiti

Published 01 March 2010
Tearfund is bringing aid to families in remote regions of Haiti, including a coastal mountainous area which up until last week was still unreached by relief agencies.

The Christian aid agency has delivered temporary shelter materials to more than 1,600 families, including those living in the remote areas of Léogâne and Gressier, following the huge January 12 earthquake in which more than 200,000 people died.

David Bainbridge, Tearfund’s Disaster Management Director who has recently returned from the area said: “Our team members were often the first aid workers these communities had received.

“We found families working incredibly hard to help one another with the few resources they have available, but the needs are enormous.

“This is a race against time as the impending rainy season will only make the situation worse for so many thousands of people who are already highly vulnerable.”

The Tearfund team has found that in many of the communities, homes have been completely destroyed by the earthquake, making shelter an urgent priority.

The team is working to support teachers and community volunteers in creating ‘child friendly spaces’ and children’s clubs, which will provide trauma counselling support and health and hygiene education.

It is also providing information and training to support resilient building designs that conform to building codes and standards, and preparation for any future earthquakes in the region.

Tearfund logistician Nathan Beard spoke of the extraordinary hospitality he and the team had received from an order of nuns at Fond d’Oies in the coastal highlands.

“It was a very compelling and thought-provoking experience to arrive at night, tumble out of a vehicle and arrive in an emergency situation – with the immediate needs of the nuns (the Sisters of St Antoine) and an entire orphanage before us. There was no shelter, only cold and windy conditions in an exposed location in the hills," said Mr Beard.

“We were immediately accepted and invited to take part in providing for them. It was emotionally moving to see the nuns obviously plunged into a situation where they needed to pull together resources to protect children in the most rudimentary way. It was a real visceral introduction into the raw needs of people in the countryside.”

The nuns have been caring for earthquake survivors, including babies, in the vicinity by providing basic shelter. A water filter has been installed by Tearfund to give them clean drinking water.

Mr Beard continued: “It was humbling to see right in the middle of all the rubble and ruin that the first inclination of the nuns was to be hospitable and accommodate us as best they could. Truly remarkable given the level of need they were already dealing with, and hard for us to leave given the extent of need remaining. Their faith was integral for survival and existence, counting on God. And pretty huge considering what they had been through.”

Tearfund is planning other measures as part of its wider response to the quake, including cash for work schemes to provide incomes for families by paying them to clear roads still blocked by debris, and the distribution of seeds to farmers ahead of the next planting season. Capital grants will be offered to families to help restart their businesses.

Aid worker Lindsey Reece Smith is based at one of many churches in capital Port-au-Prince that have been turned into makeshift refugee camps.

She said organising aid distribution had been an uphill battle. The delivery of aid to mountain areas has required the use of helicopters, while distribution lists have to be agreed with community committees and vehicles sourced to transport the goods.

She said: “Quite a bit to do in 48 hours, but on the upside – if we achieve it – up to 1,700 families will have the wherewithal to protect themselves from the rain.”


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