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Bringing help to Haiti’s rural economy

Haiti, June 28, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Fabiola Coupet/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Fabiola Coupet/Mercy Corps

An estimated 90,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau. Even before the quake, this was one of the country’s poorest regions. Its agricultural economy has suffered from environmental degradation and poor infrastructure. Many families lack access to a latrine and walk great distances for water.

Yet, following the earthquake, these households opened their doors to homeless friends and family from Port-au-Prince — even, in some cases, to strangers. At times, there is nothing they can offer except a blanket and a spot on the floor.

To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.

The strategy behind all our activities in the Central Plateau, however, is long- term: To revitalize the rural economy so people can make a living. If there are jobs, people can choose to stay, rather than returning to the crowded conditions in Port-au-Prince.

Mercy Corps is now hiring the first of 20,000 families for cash-for-work projects in Central Plateau. These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation. We are also giving cash grants of $128 to 7,000 host families to take care of their urgent needs for food and household supplies.

In the next 12 months, Mercy Corps also plans to provide materials to 10,000 displaced and host families to improve their homes and temporary shelters in the cities of Mirebalais, Hinche and Saint-Marc. Families will receive a voucher they can redeem from local vendors for tools, building supplies, mattresses, or additional cookware. During that time, we also plan to give vouchers to another 5,000 families for supplies that will help them begin a new trade or business, such as sewing machines or beehives.