ACT in Haiti: Healing the Traumatised

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GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Port-au-Prince - Thousands of people in Port-au-Prince - injured, hungry and desperate - have spent days outdoor in the demolished capital of Haiti without food or shelter. Desperate Haitians have blocked streets with corpses in anger. Food is stocking up at the airport, but has not yet been distributed. A great deal of the population is traumatized, and ACT Alliance is now sending in experts on psycho-social support.

The psycho-social specialists will assist the population of Haiti to get going in their difficult state of life, support them in getting together and be able to talk and process their traumatic experiences. ACT Alliance, a global coalition of church based humanitarian agencies, has long experience in psycho-social work under emergencies.

Healing a city?

Local ACT field workers will be trained in psycho-social activities. Maria Lundberg, head of the emergency unit of ACT member Church of Sweden, is responsible for the ACT psycho-social activities. "We can't heal a whole city", Lundberg says, "but we have an approach to lead people through harsh difficulties." This kind of support has to be done closely together with the affected Haitian community, who knows best about the needs and resources among themselves. To be enabled to support each other and take a constructive part in the rehabilitation is an important step forward in such a chaotic situation.

The ACT Alliance psycho-social project involves the population in community based activities; repairing houses, cleaning streets, rebuilding schools etc. It is a way of imposing hope for the future. "In Haiti we have seen people crying, asking for the meaning of life: Where is God? We will help people to live and deal with these existential questions", Maria Lundgren says.

Water for 10 000 people

Port-au-Prince is without water. ACT Alliance is sending water-purification equipment that will serve 10,000 people. Clean water will be hugely important in the coming days to fight the risk of cholera and other water-based diseases.

ACT member Norwegian Church Aid is sending an emergency plane packed with 45 tons of water-purification equipment, water distribution systems, water tanks, and pipes and tapping systems. Tools for building latrines are also on board, together with several hundred tents.