|Food, water, housing top priorities for Haitians|
A girl plays between rows of makeshift homes at a
temporary camp in the soccer stadium at Leogane, Haiti. UMNS photos by
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Jan. 26, 2010 | MELLIER, Haiti (UMNS)
Food. Potable water. Shelter.
A girl carries water from
the well at the Methodist Church compound
Those are the top needs a group of 29 church and community leaders
told three executives from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Asked which is the most important, the group said all three.
The Jan. 12 earthquake left Mellier, about 80 kilometers from
Port-au-Prince, without safe houses, churches, schools, businesses and
basic needs. Because most of the attention of the humanitarian aid has
focused on the capital city, not much help has reached more than 3,000
in this town and another 7,000 in the surrounding area.
Community leaders met with UMCOR in the shade of an almond tree on
wooden benches and pews salvaged from their destroyed Methodist church
and school. Children played while adults and youth talked about the
desperate state they are in since the earthquake.
Melissa Crutchfield and Sharad Aggarwal, executives with UMCOR, and
the Rev. Edgar Avitia Legarda, executive with the United Methodist Board
of Global Ministries, listened in an effort to assess needs and develop
a plan to provide relief.
“The community participates from the very beginning,” Aggarwal said.
“In Mellier they have told us what their priorities are so we are not
imposing what we think they need on them. That is what we do in all our
programming for UMCOR. The community helps us determine what their needs
No jobs or food
Before the earthquake, 80 percent of the population was unemployed.
Now it is 100 percent. There are also many more orphans and elderly
people living alone, said Pierre Naccsae, a lay leader in the Methodist
Church of Haiti.
Naccsae said about 10 people died in the disaster, but many more were
injured. There is no medicine, doctor or clinic in the town.
There are no markets or vendors selling food.
One young man said before the earthquake most people ate three meals a
day, but since then they are lucky to eat once a day. “Today my bag is
empty,” he said. Everyone is sharing their food supply, but it is
Clifford Honore, 24, is an active member of the church. He is also a
young man with no idea what the future holds for him.
Modna Lemsky samples a meal donated by the U.S. military in a
camp in Mellier.
“I have finished with secondary school and it is not possible for me
to go to a university,” said Honore. “I would like to become a mechanic
or some technician, but there is no money. Everyday I just sit. This is a
very difficult time.” Honore said he felt hopeful before the disaster,
but now it is hard.
The United Methodist team has been in Haiti since Jan. 21. They have
met with church leaders, visited several areas in and around
Port-au-Prince and have met with other international humanitarian
organizations helping in Haiti.
“Because of the particular circumstances of Haiti, sometimes relief
kits and relief packages have some suggested items in addition to some
of the minimum standards,” Crutchfield said. “We got some good technical
information and we got connected to lots of good partners.”
Crutchfield said the team will meet with organizations throughout
their time in Haiti this week and once a permanent office has been
established, the meetings will continue.
“We realize the needs are great, and we have already done a few
activities with our partners such as a water purification project with
Global Medic. We are planning to set up a distribution of some relief
supplies in Mellier before we leave Jan. 30.”
While UMCOR will work with the Methodist Church of Haiti, relief will
go to the entire community, she added.
“If I could speak for all of Haiti, I would ask someone to help us
build houses and offices,” Honore said. “Help us so we will be ready
before the next earthquake comes.”
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service on
assignment in Haiti.
News media contact: David Briggs or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville,
Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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