Earthquake Response Brings Hope in Haiti

Recovery efforts are underway following Haiti’s recent earthquake, but officials have warned that many rural areas remain completely cut off without assistance of any kind. One exception is the hard hit farming community of Laborde, where the initial response is nothing short of remarkable… even though much more remains to be done.

It is a testament to the power of local leadership that farmers in this rural area, working with our regional field agronomist, came up with their own recovery plan within days of the earthquake. Not only is the support they are now receiving exactly what they requested, but the community is also fully in charge of distribution and organization. This level of local coordination has helped to avoid the chaos that often follows a disaster of this kind, and also means that residents are able to begin focusing on long-term rebuilding without delay.
While this recovery plan was developed by the local branch of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) in Laborde, it is the response to our initial appeal for funding and support that has made it a reality. So we say thanks to all those from around the world who have made donations, and to the Raising Haiti Foundation and the Julian Grace Foundation for providing emergency grants. And rather than listing the many NGOs that responded to the SFA’s request for on-site assistance, we have highlighted their contributions in the following progress report.
And for those who have not yet contributed… the opportunity is one click away:
The farmers in Laborde asked for four kinds of support in their emergency response plan: food, medical care, tents (we had to substitute tarps for tents) and water. Here is what has been provided as of today:
Challenge: Stored farm produce was lost, basic farming operations were disrupted, and access was made difficult for products like rice that come from outside the immediate area.
Response: The SFA approached World Central Kitchen (WCK) for help with food for Laborde. The roots of the organization go back to the earthquake in 2010. Chef José Andres saw the devastation at that time firsthand and subsequently established WCK with the belief that food can be a positive agent of change for communities in need. Now the organization is back in Haiti and from their field operation serving the residents of the Les Cayes area, they are also providing 720 hot meals each day for the SFA farmers and others in Laborde.
We have also purchased and distributed 2,500 lbs of rice. But this is a drop in the bucket compared to what we are going to need in the coming months. Our three-step strategy is to start with hot meals, transition to bulk dry food distribution, and then get back to normal self-reliance as soon as possible.
Challenge: There is almost no regular medical service in the immediate area.
Response: At the invitation of the SFA, Project Medishare has just wrapped up a week-long medical marathon in which they conducted daily clinics open to all the residents of Laborde. Farmers were so grateful to see the Medishare doctors and nurses that several brought gifts of avocados and coconuts, a particularly meaningful gesture given the food shortage in the area. In addition to some minor injuries suffered during the earthquake, the medical team has been dealing with every imaginable ailment and symptom, which is not surprising given the almost total lack of medical service available in Laborde.
Medishare’s 9-member team, along with medical supplies, arrived in nearby Les Cayes on Monday morning via two helicopters and a small plane – all operated at no charge by World Hope International.
Challenge: Up to 60% of homes homes were destroyed or damaged and many families are sleeping in the open in the midst of heavy rain.
Response: While the original request from Laborde was for tents, the SFA has substituted tarps. And all but a handful of the 225 distributed so far began life as sails on boats and yachts. The Sails for Sustenance organization and the New Orleans Yacht Club normally provide used sails as part of their service to Haiti’s subsistence fishermen, but in response to a request from the SFA they diverted a supply of these sails – some of which were so large it took eight people just to unload them from the truck and then lay them out in a field. The same team then spent days cutting the sails into tarps that have been very well received by families in Laborde.
With our sail-to-tarp operation finely tuned, we are waiting on a second and much larger supply of sails and other much needed materials from Sails for Sustenance, the New Orleans Yacht Club and the TSR (Twin Sisters Reunited) Association in coming weeks.
Challenge: Water in local wells and other natural sources was contaminated as a result of the earthquake.
Response: For the first few days we provided some bottled water, but this has now been replaced by water purification tablets. We purchased enough of these tablets to treat 320,000 gallons of water, and demonstrations are done with each distribution to ensure proper use of the product. Based on positive feedback from farmers, we have just made a second purchase of the same quantity of tablets.
While emergency response has been the first priority, the SFA has begun working on both home and farm building repairs as well as the longer-term agricultural recovery phase. The latter is focused on increasing the local seed bank capacity, supplying pumps to improve irrigation, introducing a livestock program, and expanding the tree existing planting operation with a focus on fruit trees.
In other news, the Haiti Response Coalition, in partnership with a group of diaspora and Haiti-based organizations, created a campaign calling on all those who operate in Haiti to pledge to a set of standards for a Haitian solution and a rights-based response to the earthquake. The SFA has signed the pledge and urges others to read it and do the same.
ps: shout out to Digicel for donating minutes for the SFA earthquake response team in both Laborde and Les Cayes!

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