"We see that the acute relief efforts were carried out very effectively. Camps for earthquake victims are also resonably well organised. But I am worried to see how slow and badly organised some of the national and international authorities' efforts to reconstruct Haiti have been, especially in terms of rubble removal and construction of new houses and buidings. Not enough has been done, and it's going too slowly," says general secretary Atle Sommerfeldt.
Norwegian Church Aid was among the first organisations to respond to the devastating quake that struck Haiti one year ago. Since then, we have increased staff numbers in the country and are now delivering assistance to around 130,000 people daily. Efforts have so far been focused around delivering clean, safe drinking water, toilets and showers as well as hygiene equipment to Haitians living in camps and poor communities. We work through churches to achieve broader protection of women and children and to encourage women's participation in public debate and the reconstruction work. And we support psychosocial programmes that amongst other things encourage young people in the poor area of Bel Air to participate in dance, music, capoeira and art as a vent for their energy and frustrations.
Work in progress
"I've seen that the clean-up effort is still ongoing. Recent reports that nothing is happening in Haiti, are misleading. I have seen with my own eyes how hard Haitians are working day by day to clear rubble from the streets and from collapsed buildings using only the simplest of means, in many cases their own hands. Poeple are also moving - slowly but surely - home again, which is a sign that things are improving," says Sommerfeldt.
And yet the troubled political situation in Haiti has at times slowed down the relief effort.
"Reconstruction is happening too slowly. It may take a long time before the government of Haiti is in a position to organize the reconstruction efforts. And the situation requires us to act immediately. Norwegian Church Aid has seen that cooperation with regional and local authorities can give good results, right away. We will continue this way of working in 2011," says Sommerfeldt.
Sommerfeldt spent the first week of 2011 in Haiti visiting Norwegian Church Aid's various projects around the country, and met a great many earthquake survivors who have now received help.
"Again, I was touched to see the strength of will of the Haitian people to survive. This people, living in such extreme poverty, and having experienced little else than bad governance, conflict, exploitation of natural resources and a series of crushing natural disasters over the course of its 200-year history, stands nonetheless proud and ready to rebuild Haiti with its bare hands if necessary. The international community is obliged to stand shoulder to shoulder with Haitians and ensure they get the help they so dearly need," says Sommerfeldt.
Sommerfeldt has also seen how the cholera epidemic is being fought in the camps where Norwegian Church Aid and partners are working:
"I'm impressed by the level of knowledge among Haitians as to how cholera is transmitted and prevented. Information dissemination and the distribution of hygiene kits is clearly working," confirms Sommerfeldt.
- General secretary Atle Sommerfeldt: tel: +47 917 55 112