March 2009 e-Newsletter

Haitian mason overcomes recent disastrous hurricanes

Jean Pierre Andrevil, 53, is a mason who lives with his wife and seven children (five girls and two boys) in a community near Madame Joie in the Maissade District (Central Plateau). His family’s revenue comes from the sale of the remaining agricultural products they do not eat and from wages Jean Pierre earns from occasional day labor and short-term construction work. As a result, they faced extreme hardships in the aftermath of four hurricanes which destroyed their crops and paralyzed the construction sector. 

For about five months, I could not find work as a mason. There was a government construction project in the area, but local masons were not hired to do this work. Only people coming from the city or other villages got the jobs. On the other hand, the community activities aimed at repairing the water system were undertaken by the local organization OPM (Maissade Peasant Organization - World Neighbors partner),” Jean Pierre said.  

First, they called qualified masons in the area to work according to their experience. Fortunately, I was selected and I worked for seven days. With the $40 I was paid, my family was able to buy the traditional soup and coffee for the New Year. When the local organization participates in launching community development programs, poor people have fair access to them.” 

Because of the emergency funding provided to World Neighbors by American Jewish World Service, Jean Pierre and 180 other local people earned much needed income while helping to repair roads and other vital community infrastructure, including the water system that serves numerous communities in the Madame Joie area. The work of Jean Pierre and others allowed potable water service to be restored in benefit of more than 300 families. 

Haiti – a disaster progress report 

You may recall the four devastating hurricanes that hit Haiti in a matter of three weeks last August and September. It was the worst natural disaster to affect Haiti in over 50 years, claiming 793[1] lives, displacing 158,600[2] people, and directly affecting a million[3] more due to the loss of livelihoods, food shortages due to crop and livestock destruction, drinking water contamination and a breakdown in basic sanitation. Total material damage has been estimated at nearly $1 billion, a figure that represents almost 10 percent of Haiti’s gross domestic product.[4]

After the storms, World Neighbors staff in Haiti determined that all eight of our program areas were affected - floods and landslides destroyed the homes of 200 participating families, roads and trails connecting villages to nearby towns and markets were washed away, and people were stranded, making it impossible for supplies to reach their communities. The devastating storms destroyed crops, washed away precious topsoil, uprooted fruit trees (mostly avocado), countless livestock perished and almost all water sources, both for human consumption and for agriculture, were either contaminated or basic infrastructure was damaged. World Neighbors staff had to reach the communities by foot because the ground was too unstable for pack animals, much less cars or motorcycles.

Hope for these communities came immediately with funding from concerned and caring World Neighbors supporters and through generous grants from the MSST Foundation, Lutheran World Relief and American Jewish World Service helping World Neighbors to launch a relief operation addressing access to food and water, and road and community infrastructure repair.

Funding provided World Neighbors and our partnering organizations to undertake three potable water projects. Water filter molds were purchased which will enable more than 2,000 families to manufacture their own filters from locally available materials. The water system in Madame Joie (Maissade) was repaired, restoring potable water service to more than 300 families, and three springs in the Saint Michel area were sanitized and small-scale improvements (such as planting trees and constructing fence structures) were established around the water sources to prevent further contamination by roaming animals and runoff.

The highest priority identified by the hurricane victims was opening up roads and communication to their communities which had been cut-off from others. Through the support of the emergency funding, more than 29 kilometers (just over 18 miles) of badly damaged roads were repaired during the past three months. These accomplishments not only facilitated the movement of goods and people, but also created short-term jobs for needy families who labored to complete the repairs. See the story of Jean Pierre Andrevil

To advance long-term agriculture production, the emergency funding allowed World Neighbors partner organizations to purchase 20 pounds of vegetable seeds and distribute them to 150 of the most affected families. To respond to immediate food needs, World Neighbors partners decided to put cash into circulation and set-up community stores where people could buy the food they needed at reduced prices. The stores were stocked with staple foods, such as rice, oil, beans, sugar, butter and flour, as well as other necessities such as soap, matches, flashlights, pocket radios and batteries.

The families benefiting from the community stores have greatly reduced the amount they are spending on food at a critical time as well as minimizing their travel time and costs. It has been so successful that many families have asked the local organizations to continue operating the stores and to increase the number of products sold even after the emergency has ended – a sure-sign of sustainability.

World Neighbors mission is long-term development, so in keeping with our values, World Neighbors and partners have launched a three-year program to facilitate rehabilitation of the most affected communities in a way that enhances their ability to avoid and cope with future natural calamities. When this initiative is fully funded, 5,000 families will benefit, and these efforts will build on the relief work undertaken during the past three months. World Neighbors has raised over $140,000 for this new initiative, but it still needs to raise more funds to reach the number of participants that need assistance. Please donate today to help World Neighbors realize these near-term goals as well as a future vision for these rural communities in Haiti.




Why doesn’t World Neighbors work with disasters? 

If disaster strikes in program areas where we are already working, such as in Haiti, we help people and partners to cope, through rehabilitation and recovery. What World Neighbors avoids is jumping into new places where disaster strikes because we do not have any added value in terms of local knowledge or relationships. We think it is better to allow agencies that specialize in emergency relief to take the lead. Our specialty is long-term development and strengthening the capacity of communities to meet their basic needs and to prevent disasters from happening in the first place (or setting up coping mechanisms in disaster prone areas).                                                                              



World Neighbors on BBC World Service

Friday, February 27 the World Have Your Say radio show produced by the BBC World Service invited Scott Killough from World Neighbors to join a great discussion on microcredit and poverty. Discussing the topic with him was Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prizer winner, the Bangladeshi economist and banker who pioneered microcredit. Listen as Scott discusses how these programs can help lift people out of poverty. Listen today to learn more about World Neighbors great programs across the globe. 

Listen Now – click on the show with the air date of Feb. 27




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[1] Haiti Storms, Fact Sheet #2, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), October 10, 2008.
[2] Tropical Storm Hanna, Gustav, Ike, Situation Report No. 9, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), September 11, 2008.
[3] The Storms in Haiti: A desperately poor country is devastated by three weeks of violent weather, Washington Post, September 9, 2008.
[4] Haiti storm damage estimated at USD1 billion, Thomson Reuters, October 22, 2008.