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Three years later, investing in the long-term

Haiti, January 11, 2013

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Liz Hummer/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Our work supporting kids began immediately after the earthquake and continues today with our Soccer for Life program, teaching healthy life skills and HIV prevention. Photo: Liz Hummer/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Liz Hummer/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Since joining our business competition, Bilha Fanfan plans to expand her salon into a network of beauty schools that will bring more jobs to women in Haiti. Photo: Liz Hummer/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Liz Hummer/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Our staff is mobilizing rural communities to protect their land and address Haiti's severe deforestation. Photo: Liz Hummer/Mercy Corps

Three years after Haiti's worst-ever natural disaster, evidence of recovery is not hard to find. Most of the tent camps have closed, the lion’s share of rubble has been cleared, and the severe cholera epidemic has declined. Haitians are eager to focus on the future.

With that comes the acknowledgement that there is still a lot of work to be done.

Consequences of the January 2010 earthquake remain, compounded by chronic issues that were plaguing the nation long before. Grinding poverty, lack of essential services and a weak government infrastructure created immense challenges during the emergency — and still hamper rebuilding in the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince, which was at the center of the 7.0 magnitude quake.

Complex emergency response

The complexity of responding to a natural disaster in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation cannot be underestimated. But just days after the earthquake, Mercy Corps deployed an emergency response team to Port-au-Prince and began addressing the immediate needs of survivors.

Our efforts have reached 1.6 million people in Haiti — through distribution of emergency supplies, creation of temporary jobs and psychosocial support for children, as well as lifesaving actions to halt the spread of cholera.

Since the earthquake struck, Mercy Corps has:

  • Created 234,000 temporary jobs through cash for work activities
  • Supported 100,000 children with their recovery from trauma
  • Helped 429,000 access clean drinking water
  • Was the first NGO in Haiti to use a mobile wallet for cash transfers to 8,700 families
  • Provided 1 million people in high-risk areas with lifesaving information and water treatment products to reduce the incidence of cholera
  • Supported 30,000 families hosting earthquake survivors

We've spent more than three-quarters of the $21.6 million in donations we received for Haiti. While we endeavoured to react quickly and use funds to help immediate needs, we’re always striving to balance speed with impact.

We implemented emergency programs with an eye toward the future. Now, we’re committed to investing in programs that address the root causes of Haiti’s poverty and empower communities to effect their own change.

SEE PHOTOS: Building back stronger

First, we're giving Haiti's youth the tools to improve their lives. More than 3,100 boys and girls in some of Port-au-Prince’s most impoverished neighborhoods have learned how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in our Soccer for Life program. Our trained coaches leverage the allure of soccer to impart life skills — and help young people imagine a better future.

Small business owners drive development

Second, we're supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, which are at the heart Haiti’s economy. Their success will drive development, create jobs and help people lift themselves out of poverty.

We’re working with a local organization, Fondation Etre Ayaisian, to help female entrepreneurs develop their business plans. The 18-month competition connects these women with the training and resources they need to thrive — and improve their communities. In the end, $65,000 will be awarded to 22 finalists to finance their entrepreneurial dreams.

At the same time, we recognize the risks that small business owners face — especially when they are living day-to-day. The vast majority of Haitians are uninsured (only 1 percent of the $14 billion of quake-related property damage was covered by insurance), with no safety net to help them recover from shocks.

So in collaboration with our microfinance partner Fonkoze, we cofounded an insurance company that helps small business owners and other informal entrepreneurs replace their assets after destructive events. In the last two years, the company has paid out more than $8.3 million in insurance benefits to nearly 34,000 Fonkoze clients following tropical storms and hurricanes like Sandy.

Smarter land use reduces risks

Third, we're promoting environmental protection through smarter land use and clean energy. Harmful environmental practices have led to severe deforestation, leaving rural communities vulnerable to increasingly erratic weather. Soil erosion reduces the productivity of the land and massive floods rush through villages during severe storms.

Much of Haiti’s economic growth is tied to agriculture, so we are working with farmers to create conservation structures that protect their land and increase their production. Approximately 130,000 trees and more than 1 million feet of living hedgerows have been planted thus far to reduce soil erosion — and there is already evidence of increased soil stability and prevention of flood damage during 2012’s severe storms.

These efforts extend to helping local entrepreneurs market solar lamps and build fuel-efficient cook stoves. We’re creating incentives to adopt these cleaner, more efficient uses of fuel, and thereby make the shift to protecting Haiti’s precious natural resources.

Committed to supporting Haiti's advancement

What do all of these programs have in common? Our goal is to create an environment where Haitians have the resources to withstand shocks and the opportunities to continue improving their lives. We focus on working with local organizations and empowering communities to determine how best to help themselves — long after our presence is needed.

Of course, it would be foolish to think that all of Haiti’s problems can be solved quickly. The earthquake was a catalyst that drew international attention to both urgent and deeply-rooted issues that are affecting Haiti’s development. But we must understand that the country requires sustained support to rebuild — and make meaningful progress.

Certainly, we must work with the government as they lead the development of their nation and contribute our energy, innovations and experience to complement their work. Mercy Corps is committed to playing a critical, supportive role in Haiti’s advancement.

At the country’s darkest hour, millions of you responded. Your support made a lifesaving difference. But our work here is not finished. Join us as we continue to work together for a better Haiti.

How You Can Help

Your gift helps us improve even more lives in Haiti and around the world. Donate today.