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UMCOR assists storm-ravaged people in Haiti

Tropical Storm Hanna passes over Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola on Sept. 2. A UMNS photo illustration by Jeff Schmaltz, NASA.

By Melissa Hinnen*
Sept. 10, 2008 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to four catastrophic storms that tore through Haiti in less than a month.

Survivors of Hurricane Ike walk down a rubble-filled street in Holguin, Cuba.
A UMNS Web-only photo courtesy of the Rev. Ivelis Matthews.

Hundreds of deaths and extensive flooding have been reported, and thousands of homes and livelihoods destroyed. In a country with limited resources and widespread poverty, more than 650,000 people have been left especially vulnerable.

UMCOR Haiti is on the ground responding with targeted direct assistance, and personnel that evacuated during the storms have returned safely. The office in Cap Haitien sustained minimal damage, and the staff is working in the North Department of Haiti, providing disaster relief for the short and long term.

Thomas Dwyer, director of operations for UMCOR’s non-governmental organization unit, said that "in tandem with immediate relief, we are providing support to assist in rebuilding peoples' lives.

"Families will need tools and materials to help repair their homes, and children will need school supplies to return to school," Dwyer said. "UMCOR is prepared and resources are mobilized to help people through this difficult process."

Hurricane Ike, which formed at the beginning of September, was the most recent storm to strike Haiti and Cuba. However, U.S. law prohibits UMCOR and the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, its parent agency, from providing direct assistance in Cuba. In 2006, the federal government failed to renew the board’s license to send funds into Cuba for ministries of various kinds. Many other denominations have also lost their licenses.

Assistance packages

Emergency relief kits and materials will be distributed to displaced people and orphanages in Cap Haitien. UMCOR Haiti is offering a variety of assistance packages to families, including long-term access to potable water, cash for work activities to help clean up the affected areas, school kits, cook stove and building materials.

UMCOR Haiti also is exploring working with the World Food Program and Christian Aid to distribute health and hygiene kits, Dwyer said.

In addition to the NGO work, UMCOR is partnering with other organizations through Action by Churches Together to address humanitarian needs created by the storms.

“UMCOR is prepared and resources are mobilized to help people through this difficult process.”
–Thomas Dwyer
United Methodists have a longstanding relationship with the people of Haiti. Strong ties between the Methodist Church of Haiti and UMCOR helped facilitate the opening of the UMCOR Haiti field office in 2005.

A primary goal of UMCOR Haiti is to help survivors recover from 2004's Hurricane Jeanne. Agency workers have distributed relief supplies consisting of health and school kits from UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana to more than 13,300 beneficiaries in public schools, local associations and medical centers in program sites around the Northern District as well as areas surrounding Port-au-Prince.

Additionally, UMCOR has distributed approximately 380 school and health kits to vulnerable people through a clinic in Berthanie in the community of Cavalion, Southern Haiti.

Donations support UMCOR’s work to address the immediate relief and long-term recovery of those affected by the hurricanes in Haiti. Mail checks to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, and write "UMCOR Advance 418325, Haiti Emergency" on the memo line. Online gifts can be made at www.givetomission.org.

Methodists in Cuba have responded to the hurricane damage, although they are severely limited financially. Reports on this work of the Methodist Church of Cuba can be found in Spanish and English on the church’s Web site.

*Hinnen is a staff writer for the United Methodist Committee on Relief

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

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Board of Global Ministries

Michigan Area Haiti Task Force

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