As the search and rescue phase ends in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake and hurricane, responders have begun its material needs provision, providing humanitarian assistance while developing long-term recovery and development programming. According to the UN System in Haiti, as of September 7th, more than 800,000 people were affected and over 650,000 were in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. Although a multi-sectoral and multilateral response is underway, challenges arise in the context of urgent needs, a complex sociopolitical crisis and a global pandemic, and, in the midst of these, NGOs such as Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation (BTCF) is continuing a humanitarian response that is inclusive and led by the local community.
In one example of a challenge faced and overcome is the difficulty of shipping emergency supplies to the ground and those in need; however, for BTCF, through coordination with the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Taiwan Red Cross, was able to ship the first batch relief materials to Tzu Chi’s warehouse in Port-au-Prince on the 1st of September, which included 250 boxes of rice, 100 Jing Si Multipurpose Foldable Beds, face masks, water buckets, antibacterial soaps, and feminine hygiene products. This first batch, along with subsequent shipments, which were distributed by BTCF’s Haiti Response Team on September 8, the first of many distributions.
With the support of locally trained volunteers, staff, and personnel, BTCF’s Haiti Response Team held their first distribution on September 8th at Ecole Notre Dame in Les Cayes. Approximately 1,000 families received mainly food items, including two large bags of rice, rice, beans, shredded corn, flat pasta, macaroni, cooking oil, and Aquatab water purification tablets, a total food supply enough to support a household of 6 to 8 for one month.
Lastly, on September 7th, a day before the first distribution, a ceremony was held at Tzu Chi’s warehouse in Port-au-Prince honoring the government of Taiwan, the Taiwan Red Cross, and BTCF for their effort to donate a collective 25 tons of relief materials. Accepting these donations on behalf of the people of Haiti is Prime Minister of the Republic of Haiti himself, Ariel Henry. Also in attendance is Ambassador to Haiti from Taiwan, Richard Ku. Acknowledging Tzu Chi’s contributions – and the great threat posed by gang violence – Prime Minister Henry assures Tzu Chi’s Haiti Earthquake Response Team that “my government will make sure you have all our support.”
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