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Official says Haiti relief needs coordination


1:30 P.M. EST April 5, 2010

U.S. Secretary of State
 Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) speaks at the U.N. in January. 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is at left. Photo by Marco Castro, U.N.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) speaks at the U.N. in January. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is at left. Photo by Marco Castro, U.N.

Now that the international community has pledged nearly $10 billion in aid to Haiti, a way is needed to delineate roles and responsibilities on the ground, says a United Methodist relief official.

About 900 agencies currently are working on earthquake relief in Haiti, and many critical issues remain to be sorted out, noted Thomas Dwyer, the top executive of the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s nongovernmental organization. Dwyer oversees UMCOR’s overseas offices, including one that recently reopened in Port-au-Prince.

Concerns include the logistics of transporting supplies and materials, decision-making responsibilities for displaced populations, land ownership, reconstruction issues, revitalization of agriculture and the protection and rights of women. The process of rebuilding must include the continued engagement of Haitian civil society and assessments of how to support Haitian government personnel, he said.

On March 31, participants at a one-day International Donors’ Conference for Haiti at the United Nations made pledges amounting to $5.3 billion for the next two years and $9.9 billion in total for the next three years and beyond.

During a press conference after the event, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the international action “the down payment Haiti needs for wholesale national renewal” and stressed a well-coordinated plan of implementation is required.

“Today, we have mobilized to give Haiti and its people what they need most—hope for a new future,” he said. “We have made a good start, we need now to deliver.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted that the amount pledged “far exceeds the $3.9 billion that the Haitians identified as their minimum need for this time period.”

Working together with the Haitian people is crucial, she added. “Aid is important, but aid has never saved a country. Our goal must be the empowerment of the Haitian people. They are the ones who will carry on the work of rebuilding Haiti long after our involvement has ended.”

‘Ensuring coordination’

UMCOR is a member of Interaction, a coalition of humanitarian organizations, which took part in the donors’ conference. Even before that event, a key issue for these organizations was “ensuring there is coordination across all stakeholders on the ground, including the (Haitian) government,” Dwyer said.

He pointed out that nongovernmental organizations had raised close to $900 million from the private sector for the relief and reconstruction of Haiti. “We obviously see ourselves as part of the solution for Haiti,” he said.

UMCOR has set up an office in Haiti, coordinating with the United Nations, other partners and the Methodist Church in Haiti to help implement its five-year plan of assistance. The agency has raised more than $15 million so far from church members and other private donors.

A worker digs through 
the rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Price, Haiti. A UMNS file 
photo by Mike DuBose.
A worker digs through the rubble of the Hotel Montana in
Port-au-Price, Haiti. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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One of its partners is IMA World Health. Rick Santos, IMA’s president, believes “some very positive steps” have come out of the conference, including the pledges from the international community and a Haitian government plan that has some emphasis on economic and agricultural development.

“The challenge now is how it will be implemented,” he said. “There are models out there that have been successful.”

Santos likes the idea of a decentralized plan. IMA World Health already is operating that way in Haiti, he explained, coordinating its work with the Ministry of Health, its funding with USAID and implementing plans with local coordinators and volunteers.

His agency’s program, addressing neglected tropical disease through the mass administration of drugs, will soon be running in eight of the 10 “departments” or administrative areas of Haiti. “We’re basically able to dispense medication to 250,000 people at once over the period of a week,” Santos said.

Ecumenical attention

IMA World Health is working ecumenically on health issues in Haiti. Staff members Sarla Chand and Ann Varghese attended a recent meeting in New York sponsored by UMCOR. And IMA has called an April 6 meeting of its members to discuss Haiti health issues.

Participants will include United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ and American Baptist representatives, along with those from the Mennonite Central Committee, Episcopal Relief and Development, National Council of Churches and Church World Service.

A joint statement from Church World Service and Christian Aid, released just before the donors’ conference at the U.N., warned that the Haitian government’s plan does not adequately address critical issues of food and nutrition security.

"In prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable populations, the plan for action does not pay full attention to the need for adequate nutrition, particularly for pregnant and lactating mothers, and for children under 5 years of age—those who represent Haiti's future," said the Rev. John McCullough, a United Methodist pastor and executive director of Church World Service.

Both agencies believe priority attention should be paid to the need for investment in agriculture and ongoing nutrition programs. Food security also means building diverse sources of income for people in rural and urban settings, he added.

Gifts to support UMCOR's relief efforts in Haiti can be made online by visiting www.umcorhaiti.org. For gifts by mail, please make checks payable to UMCOR and mail to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Please indicate Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325, on the memo line of the check.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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