One year after Jeanne struck Haiti's third largest city, killing more than 2,000 people in floods and mudslides, residents have seen some significant improvements in their daily lives.
Many survivors now have improved shelter and more consistent access to health education programs on vaccination, sanitation and disease prevention. CARE has also provided paid work to nearly 25,000 people, who were employed in removing mud and debris from the city, improving the health and sanitary environment while injecting much-needed cash into the local economy.
CARE has helped to rehabilitate the existing network of water systems, which serves more than 100,000 people, and is providing access to water to an additional 50, 000 residents. Another 50,000 people in rural areas have received corn, bean and sorghum seeds to plant, while thousands of students are back in school thanks to repairs completed by CARE, its partners and Haiti's Ministry of Education.
"We and other humanitarian organizations have been able to help communities in Gonaives in critical ways, but there are still plenty of obstacles to long-term rebuilding and recovery," says Abby Maxman, CARE Country Director for Haiti,
Many storm survivors have yet to secure sustainable means to earn a living, and continue to struggle with the trauma of the storm and loss of family members. Economic opportunities are extremely scarce in Haiti. Soil runoff and pollution have ruined the country's fishing industry and more than half the population lives on under $1 a day.
It will take significant political will to change the circumstances that led to this disaster in Haiti -- primarily severe environmental degradation and an absence of government services including a complete lack of waste management. Haiti has lost over 90 percent of its forest cover since the 1950's. Sources of fuel are so few that seventy percent of Haitian families are forced to cook with charcoal, which is made by burning trees. The lack of vegetation and topsoil make it easy for people and houses to be swept away by floods and landslides. Waste management is especially critical in overcrowded slums and other areas that have little infrastructure in the first place
Maxman says enabling Haiti to fulfill its potential will require a serious and sustained commitment that fosters economic and environmental recovery the rule of law and good governance.
Haitians are hoping local, legislative, and presidential elections scheduled for November and December will help bring about an end to the political instability the country has suffered over the last 15 years. International donors are looking to the elections as a benchmark in Haiti's progress towards democracy and economic development.
"It makes good sense for the U.S. and the international community to invest in Haiti on a large scale over the long term, instead of jumping in and out when there's a disaster," says Maxman. "We need to follow up on pledges for Haiti's development. Everyone would benefit from a more stable, economically viable Haiti."
Atlanta: Alina Labrada, CARE USA, firstname.lastname@example.org, (404) 979-9383, (404) 457-4644