Rescue underscores need for aid; UCC gifts surpass $1.3 million
Written by Jeff Woodard February 23, 2010
Six weeks after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti, the ACT Alliance has assisted more than 150,000 people with direct aid, according to published reports. With steady support continually rolling in from key organizations such as the United Church of Christ, most of the aid has gone toward supplying fresh water, sanitation efforts, shelter, meals and food staples. Relief items and services including family kits, hygiene sets, medical assistance and health-clinic supplies continue to be distributed.
As a vital participant in the ACT Alliance, the UCC is assisting some of the most vulnerable among of the victims in Port-au-Prince, Gressier, Jacmel and Bainet in the south. As of Monday (Feb. 22), earthquake-relief gifts sent to the UCC totaled $1,304,864, including $425,737 in online donations.
Meanwhile, among the many staggering stories of survival is that of Rick Santos, president and CEO of IMA World Health, who, for 55 hours was trapped with several others in the rubble of the Montana Hotel in Port Au Prince before being rescued. "We used the light from our cell phones just to see," says Santos. "The space we were in began to compress with each aftershock. Debris was getting closer to us all the time; eventually, the ceiling was just a few inches over our heads."
Back in the U.S., a steady flow of relief efforts continues, on many levels in many places. First Congregational United Church of Christ of Greeley, Colo., hosted a Haiti Relief concert that has helped the congregation donate $6,130, 19 baby kits and 55 hygiene kits. "One of the most heartwarming gifts we have received was 70 cents from two guests of the St. Herman's Monastery on the West Side of Cleveland," says Susan M. Sanders, the UCC's minister for global sharing of resources. "It is all they had and they chose to share it with the people of Haiti – talk about the widow's mite."
Sanders says churches and other civil society networks in Haiti and in the Dominican Republic are working with members of the ACT Alliance on both sides of the border. "While difficult to quantify at this time, their efforts – particularly in places not reached by international humanitarian actors – are crucial for the survival and relative well-being for tens of thousands of survivors in the cities and in rural parts of Haiti," says Sanders. It is estimated that more than 450,000 people have sought refuge in rural areas.
Conditions for most of the estimated 1.2 million people living in improvised camps and shelters remain unbearably crammed and poor. UN OCHA estimates that only 280,000 people – fewer than 25 percent of the targeted number – have received shelter material. Only 120,000 have received transitory shelter, much less than the 620,000 who need it. Only 3,000 latrines have been provided to people in temporary settlements; often, 200 people have to share one toilet.
Meanwhile, little is known about the thousands who have fled to rural areas. Food prices have increased dramatically, and hosting communities' meager resources for newcomers are dwindling quickly. Compounding matters is that there is no estimate yet as to when homes and neighborhoods will be rehabilitated or rebuilt.
"Within the next month, ACT members will continue to increase the number of people benefitting from their activities with a continued focus on shelter, water, sanitation, psycho-social activities, food and non-food distributions," says Sanders.
Among other individuals and groups participating in relief efforts:
Felix Ortiz, Global Ministries' Area Executive for Latin American/Caribbean, has made two pastoral visits to partners CONASPEH and House of Hope in Haiti. He was accompanied on his second visit by Daniel Gourdet, former GM Missionary with CONAPEH and a native of Haiti.
Patrick and Francois Villier, leaders of CONASPEH, and Polycarpe Joseph, Director of House of Hope, have been living outdoors in solidarity with the Haitian people. The Villiers' and Joseph have organized community kitchens providing one daily hot meal to 60 and 600 people, respectively.
CWS Refugee Resettlement affiliates in Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Newark, New York City and Boston are providing assistance to injured Haitians who have been medically evacuated to hospitals in these cities.
Joining the UCC among ACT Alliance members currently working in Haiti are the Lutheran World Federation, Norwegian Church Aid, Christian Aid, Church World Service, Diakonie Katastrofehilfe, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee Church of Sweden