Red Cross Progress in Haiti Driven by Community Residents

Haiti Community Development

Haitians play soccer in one of the new solar lit, community spaces in the neighborhood of Campeche.

...the earthquake’s impact went much beyond the areas that have physical damage but has also had a direct consequence for less developed parts of the country.

The American Red Cross and Haitian Red Cross have launched a $12.5 million program in the north part of Haiti to help as many as 190,000 people in the north part of Haiti in a coordinated multi-pronged project.

The Gran Nò Pi Djanm (North Community Based Integrated) Program, announced July 4, is the latest project for the Red Cross in Haiti following the January, 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The North project will help people in nine communes with an integrated strategy that includes health initiatives, disaster risk reduction, job creation, housing and water and sanitation services.

A key foundation of the North project is engaging with community leaders and residents in order to ensure that the various parts of the program address the areas that the community considers as priorities. The community engagement for this project began in 2012.

“The Red Cross recognizes that the earthquake’s impact went much beyond the areas that have physical damage but has also had a direct consequence for less developed parts of the country,” said Lesley Schaffer, Regional Director Latin American and Caribbean Region. “These areas remain at high risk from other hazards and we will continue working to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable people to mitigate the effects of future disasters."

The work and planning in the North program follows a similar initiative in the Campeche area of Port-au-Prince carried out by the American Red Cross in partnership with the Haitian Red Cross, in which earthquake recovery activities aim to comprehensively address needs determined and prioritized by the community, from health and sanitation to housing and job support.

As the need has declined for emergency services such as water distribution that were vital following the quake, the American Red Cross and partners, including the Haitian Government, are establishing programs that seek to address the root causes of some of the most difficult aspects of daily life in Haiti, including poverty and health issues. The Red Cross is working directly with several of the most vulnerable communities, giving their residents a voice in determining the priorities for the type of support and assistance they receive.

For example, neighborhood residents in Campeche said better lighting in the community at night was a high priority for safety, and the Red Cross paid for installation of solar lights in the neighborhood. This has increased security at night, and students often cluster around the lights to complete their school work. Community spaces are being developed where people play soccer, art is performed and community meetings are held.

In addition, stairs have been built in different parts of the neighborhood. This may seem minor, but when communities like this are built on steep and treacherous hillsides with deep ravines – and where torrential rains often occur – stairs can mean the difference between a quick trip to the market and a serious and even life-threatening injury.

The American Red Cross is working with the International Refugee Committee to support a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) in Campeche. The program, which is led by a volunteer committee, encourages neighbors to form a group dedicated to saving small amounts of money each month that can then be redistributed to members in times of emergency or for opportunities like business expansion. In countries where access to life insurance, traditional banking and credit is limited, these community-based microfinance groups offer people opportunity and a small safety net that is otherwise not available.

“There is an added value when you come together to do good in the community. Collectively you can do more,” said Benita Saintil, President of one of the local VSLA groups.

The American Red Cross believes that disaster recovery programs that cover a range of integrated health, job, housing, infrastructure and disaster preparedness programs and that are based on input from neighborhood leaders and residents is likely to be the model for future international disaster recovery programs. The benefit of these kinds of integrated and engagement programs, while taking longer because of the need to work with the community to learn priorities, help gain community support and commitment to make neighborhoods safer and stronger.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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