Thursday, January 13, 2011
I worked in Haiti in 2004, when I responded to two natural disasters and civil unrest in Cap-Haïtien. Six years later not much has changed.
On top of the earthquake, Haiti has faced four emergencies in the last 10 months: hurricane season (Tomas flooded many of the flimsy tents around Port-au-Prince), then came the cholera epidemic and finally the pre- and then post-election violence. How can any country have the opportunity to bounce back let alone recover in such circumstances?
I was in Juba, Southern Sudan when I heard that an earthquake had struck Haiti. I could not believe my ears! Haiti has always held a very special place in my heart, maybe because I met my fiancé in Cap-Haïtien and because all the wonderful moments we experienced with all our Haitian friends dancing kompa and talking about why they would never leave Haiti.
I work as part of the Food Security and Livelihoods team with Save the Children. We are 16 in total, 15 national staff and me. Sadly I am the only woman in the team, but we are trying to rectify this!
After the January 12, 2010 earthquake, a large proportion of Port-au-Prince residents lost all their belongings. Women, both as family providers and as small-market traders, have borne the brunt of this loss and income. One disastrous consequence is that without a reliable income families are no longer able to pay the school fees to keep their children in school. In Haiti it is the women who generate the majority of the household income.
Livelihoods underpin sustainable development. Save the Children’s goal is therefore to improve and diversify livelihood activities to enable families to provide appropriate care for their children, send them to school and ensure that they are healthy and well nourished. As we transition from the emergency phase to longer term development, our Livelihoods programme aims to support Haitian households to do this.
My work is to increase and improve people’s access to employment opportunities, with a particular focus on the market traders who sell their wares in the Croix des Bosalle market – the major market in Port-au-Prince.
We also want to help small businesses such as carpenters and blacksmiths with grants to rebuild their industries. But in order to receive these grants, the entrepreneurs are required to take part in Business Development Services (BDS) training. By linking small-scale market traders to business development and microfinance services, we support traders to develop business plans and increase their knowledge of management capacities and knowledge and access to micro-credit and savings plans.
Our programmes also supply small grants with which people can recover the tools and household assets they lost during the earthquake – with the money a plumber can buy a wrench; a carpenter hammers and nails and a mother can buy pots and pans to cook for her children.