Laura Blank 646.245.2496
March 2, 2010, Port-au-Prince, HAITI —World Vision warns Haiti’s rural communities are at risk for chronic food and water shortages as the burden to care for the displaced grows. Families in these communities are struggling to cope with the influx of people seeking refuge from the destruction in the capital city. The aid agency is concerned that these communities are at risk of increased chronic food and water shortages and lack of adequate shelter as the rainy season approaches, burdens that could lead to more displacement and deeper poverty as resources are rapidly depleted.
“Haiti’s rural communities were already struggling to make ends meet before the earthquake,” said Jean-Claude Mukadi, the relief response manager for World Vision in Haiti. “Now, as people continue to arrive in these communities, joining the hundreds of thousands who have already fled, they are all looking for food, water, and shelter. It’s critical that efforts are put into place to help the families who were already living in these areas as well as those who are displaced from their homes.”
On the small island of La Gonave, located off the west coast of Haiti, over 40,000 people have arrived, stretching the limited resources of the 100,000 people who were already living there. Before the earthquake, La Gonave had a chronic malnutrition rate of 13%. World Vision is concerned this rate could easily increase if food issues are not addressed rapidly.
“On La Gonave, the price of rice has already gone up 60 percent. Local providers are finding it very difficult to get products because many warehouses in the capital were destroyed,” said Kimcy Blaise, World Vision’s Regional Coordinator for La Gonave. “We are worried that the increased food needs on the island will result in children and families going hungry because they simply can’t afford basic staples anymore.”
In addition to the growing food insecurity, World Vision found that at least 50 water cisterns were damaged and unusable. Before the earthquake, World Vision had been working with local leaders to build community water tanks that would allow them to collect rainwater instead of having to walk several hours to the nearest water source. Now, the tanks must be repaired before the rainy season, or families will not be able to collect the much-needed water.
The aid agency and local government leaders conducted an assessment of the earthquake’s impact on La Gonave and found that 28 of the 60 schools on the island were damaged by the earthquake. The schools that were not damaged have already seen an unprecedented increase in enrollment as a result of the growing population. Prior to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, only about two-thirds of Haitian children attended primary school and fewer than 30 percent reached the 6th grade. The school system in Haiti already suffers from overcrowding, a lack of adequate facilities and materials, and few teachers.
The assessment also determined that 9,600 houses were either damaged or destroyed in the disaster, and many families have been left homeless or are living in households with three to four times as many people as they are used to. World Vision met one family that had grown from 7 to 22 people overnight once their extended family arrived.
"World Vision has been doing rural development work in Haiti for many years, and while it is necessary to provide relief to displaced families in Port-au-Prince, it is critical to remember those living outside the city,” said Mukadi. “If more resources are not channeled to the rural communities, the poor will be forced to return to the capital city, adding to the already overcrowded conditions there."
Unfortunately, the situation and the growing need for resources are not unique to this small island. In fact, over half a million people have already left Port-au-Prince, looking for shelter and a new life elsewhere.
In La Gonave, World Vision has provided food aid to 65,000 people and is planning to reach more in the coming days as part of its initial response. World Vision has also increased supplies to the seven health clinics the agency runs on the island and is setting up a reunification program to trace family members of children who have been separated from their families.
As part of its long-term plan to help rural communities like those on La Gonave, World Vision is considering cash-for-work or food-for-work programs that can stimulate the economy. The rehabilitation of damaged cisterns will also be a priority for the response. The agency is also looking into providing psychosocial support training to teachers to help them work with children affected by the disaster and procuring temporary shelters for the damaged schools.
In addition to its work on La Gonave, World Vision is doing food distributions in the following rural areas: Upper Plateau Central, Lower Plateau Central, and Lower Artibonite. World Vision has rural development programs in 20 areas of Haiti, including La Gonave, and has worked in the country for 30 years.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit www.worldvision.org/press.