Economic and social disparities are enormous in Haiti. The population has been exposed to poor governance for decades, with around 80% of the population living below the poverty line. Poverty, unemployment, and a lack of social services and infrastructure contribute to increasing both the level of violence and social and political unrest. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to abuse, something which was exacerbated by the earthquake in 2010.
After many decades of deforestation and the depletion of land resources, only 2% of the country's formerly forested area remains. Because of this, the country is particularly vulnerable during hurricane season, with an increased risk of flooding, landslides, and the spread of diseases.
Because of the poor living conditions, many people migrate to urban areas or leave the country entirely. Slum areas in cities are growing, and many people are trying to cross the border to the neighboring Dominican Republic, often by illegal means.
Norwegian Church Aid has worked in Haiti since 1980. After the earthquake in January 2010, we increased our efforts and opened a local office in the country. In 2012 we established a field office in the city of Leogane, west of Port-au-Prince, with an aim to strengthen our operational efforts in water, sanitation and hygiene. As of January 2013 the Haiti office is also responsible for our efforts in the Dominican Republic.
The right to peace and security: Domestic violence and abuse against women and children is widespread in Haiti. The poorest people are especially vulnerable to economic exploitation. Together with our partners, we carry out awareness-raising to educate men and women about their rights and the importance of protection against abuse. Our partners are increasingly offering different types of support for women and children affected by gender based violence, including judicial assistance in the legal system. In addition, we train children and young people in how to resolve conflicts by means of non-violent techniques, we further organise leisure activities such as football, dance and martial arts that give young people non-violent means of venting frustration and encourage them to continue their schooling. We also work to strengthen mechanisms that can contribute to mediate in difficult situations, and in turn result in more peace and security on a local and national level.
Reversing environmental degradation: Haiti lacks a centralised, sustainable system for handling sanitary waste. In addition, deforestation has led to increased vulnerability when natural disasters strike. Norwegian Church Aid is working to prevent further environmental degradation and contribute to reforestation. By building biogas plants in institutions (primarily schools) in cities and rural areas, Norwegian Church Aid resolves problems related to waste disposal while simultaneously creating environmentally friendly energy sources for schools and markets. Norwegian Church Aid also supports forestation projects and helps local communities to better manage natural disasters.
Water, sanitation and hygiene: After the earthquake in January 2010 and the cholera epidemic that erupted in 2011 we have strengthen our efforts to secure clean water and safe sanitation facilities in vulnerable areas and areas affected by the earthquake. We are especially active in the school sector, where access to clean water and safe toilets, combined with god education, is very important to prevent diseases like cholera. In addition, through our efforts we contribute to the rebuilding of better and more environment friendly systems than those in place before the earthquake.
Coordination through the ACT Alliance
In 2011, Norwegian Church Aid lead the local ACT Forum in Haiti, and have since 2012 taken the leadership in contingency planning within the local Forum. The Forum is made up of approximately 15 member organizations, both national and international. Cooperation and coordination in the ACT Alliance has worked well in the period after the earthquake, the cholera epidemic and the hurricanes that hit in 2011 and 2012, with combined appeals and cooperation on projects, protection, security and accountability in humanitarian assistance (HAP). ACT Haiti has since 2011 launched two joint projects, one for combating environmental degredation and prevention of disasters, and one to contribute to the ease the transition from emergency relief to long term rebuilding in the les Palmes region, which was where the earthquake hit the hardest. Norwegian Church Aid participates in both joint projects, and is responsible for the coordination of the last.