UCC still on the ground five years after Haiti earthquake
Though it has been five years since a devastating earthquake changed the island nation of Haiti forever, the United Church of Christ, involved with the recovery since the beginning, is still there—helping the people rebuild and recover their lives.
In the time since the 7.0 quake struck Haiti on Jan.12, 2010, the worst natural disaster the nation had ever seen, the UCC has been fulfilling its pledge of long-term assistance through continuous work with new housing to rebuild Haitian communities, and advocacy for refugees.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, several settings of the denomination responded generously, sending $4.5 million in aid toward the relief and recovery effort—money that is still being used today.
“The ways we’ve worked with partner organizations have increased the capacity of Haitians to continue with community development and justice issues that arise,” said the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, team leader of UCC Global Sharing of Resources. “The UCC is committed to a multi-pronged approach that addresses individual trauma and healing, as well as rebuilding communities.”
The earthquake, the second-deadliest in recorded history, struck just before 5 p.m. local time and killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 more and displaced 1.5 million Haitians. It crumbled buildings and turned concrete into dust.
With the help of international relief organizations, the UCC’s recovery effort focused on five areas in Haiti: building and improving housing, assisting people with disabilities, agriculture, children, and material aid.
Haiti has few building inspectors and no uniform code for construction, according to the Fuller Center for Housing, which made the 2010 earthquake that much more damaging and devastating. Thousands of buildings collapsed, killing 200,000 people and leaving well over a million more living in tent camps. The earthquake had an impact on one in three people in the country—some 3 million out of a population of 9 million, according to the Fuller Center for Housing.
Through UCC contributions to partners of Global Ministries, as well as international church disaster and development organizations of ACT Alliance, the Fuller Center and others, made possible by donations to One Great Hour of Sharing, the denomination has helped repair or build almost 300 homes for Haitian families, including fully funding the construction of 30 of those homes. The UCC also urged the Fuller Center to build homes with latrines and sanitation systems, since many organizations were building walls with roofs, never taking sanitation systems into account.
“When I was there in June, there were rows of houses put up by other multinational organizations that are completely uninhabitable because there is no sewer or sanitation,” Blaufuss said.
The materials used for the repair and reconstruction of those houses was locally sourced, as was the labor, in an effort to support the local economy.
The earthquake took an enormous toll on Haiti’s fragile economy. The year before the disaster, Haiti’s economy grew 3.5 percent, but the year after, the economy shrank by 5 percent. Even before the quake, Haiti had the least-developed economy in the Western Hemisphere.
“The last five years of recovery has deepened our commitment to walk with the Haitian people,” Blaufuss said, “and to use what international influence we might have in order for Haitians to rebuild their country better than before.”
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