You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Helping the Hosts in Haiti


PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti – In the days and weeks after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti last January 12th, hundreds of thousands of people streamed out of the most severely affected areas, including Port au Prince, to towns and villages in other parts of the country. Leaving behind homes and lives in ruins, many sought out family and friends, often arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Host families suddenly had to cope with feeding, clothing and housing hordes of visitors, including multiple children who were orphaned by the earthquake.

In addition to directly helping victims of the Haiti earthquake, the American Red Cross is working to aid those who have played a vital role in caring for the displaced. Through a series of grants, loans and community development projects, the Red Cross is helping host communities and families replenish the resources they have expended in supporting needy relatives and friends.

The latest of these initiatives, announced this week, involves a one-year partnership with the International Organization for Migration to ease overcrowding and reduce the vulnerability of host communities, host families and displaced persons living with host families. The $7.5 million program will target three regions of the country: Artibonite, located northwest of Port au Prince, as well as the North and South departments. These regions were chosen based on the concentration of displaced people who flooded into them after the earthquake, as well as the vulnerability of local populations.

More than 60,000 people will be employed by the program, which will assist host families directly with non-food items, such as school supplies or household goods. It will also fund small projects to create jobs and meet the needs of host communities. The latter could, for instance, include construction of irrigation canals and expanded access to water.

Another well-established program involves cash grants to aid host families. This American Red Cross program is run in partnership with Fonkoze, one of Haiti’s largest microcredit organizations. Several months after the earthquake, Fonkoze estimated that 6,000 of its members – or about 30,000 family members – were hosting family or friends who were displaced from severely affected areas. The grants of approximately $130 each are being given to these families – and so far more than 2,500 families have been helped. The program is being carried out in phases, staggered over six months, targeting a group of people with long-standing relationships with Fonkoze.

Finally, the American Red Cross is partnering with Mercy Corps to provide host families outside of Port au Prince with non-food items, ranging from household goods to school supplies and tools. Eligible families will receive vouchers that they, in turn, take to a “market fair” being held in their community. The program will begin in late September and is expected to reach at least 50,000 people.