This is the third post in a week-long series about different aspects of the Red Cross’ work in Haiti. It was written by Mandy George, our communications delegate in Haiti.
Insurance: something we take for granted. Last week my parents’ house flooded because of a burst pipe in the cold winter weather. Lots of damage, but it will be more or less covered by the insurance.
Not so in Haiti. Yesterday I was talking to our British Red Cross driver, Kermens. He used to own an internet café, but three years ago terrible flooding washed everything away. “The water rose so high that trucks were sitting on roof tops,” he told me. “I lost everything – my business, my car, all the expensive equipment I had saved for years to buy – gone. I was back to square one.”
Imagine this scenario multiplied by hundreds of thousands of livelihoods lost in the devastating earthquake one year ago. People’s jobs and means of survival gone in the blink of an eye. Over a million people in camps, trying to scrape together a living somehow.
For this country to recover in a way that is going to last, people need to be able to get back to work. This is something often overshadowed by the more visible need for rebuilding houses. But if people can go back to work, their ability to rebuild their homes or find somewhere to rent logically follows. And giving people the means to rebuild their own homes as well as their lives is empowering. Aside from that, people have told us that their main priority is to get back to work as soon as possible.
That’s why the British Red Cross is helping people rebuild their own livelihoods, both in Port-au-Prince and in the rural area of Les Cayes.
We have given an initial 4,000 families from Automeca camp in Port-au-Prince a cash grant of US$250 (around £160) to spend on what they need the most, or consider the most important. This has given them the chance to pay off debts, send their children to school, and in some cases move out of the camp into rented accommodation. We are also going to support 3,000 families in the nearby area of Delmas 19 with cash grants to develop small businesses, and these families will also receive training in basic business skills.
These are skills that people will have for life, not just for the time that the Red Cross will be working in Haiti. And the economic activity this will generate will help the entire neighbourhood that was completely decimated in the earthquake.
Outside of the capital, the structural damage is not visible, but the economic strain is severe. Remittances from Port-au-Prince to rural areas were high before the disaster. As a result, the earthquake also wiped out many rural livelihoods. On top of this, many families moved to rural areas after the quake – extra mouths to feed for the families hosting them, who were struggling to makes ends meet in the first place.
This is why the British Red Cross is also supporting these host families by paying school fees for up to 4,000 children in Les Cayes, as well as supporting up to 3,000 families with cash grants and employment opportunities.
The year since the earthquake has flown by. Every day, I see the strength of the Haitian people fighting a continuous battle for survival in the destruction, amidst cholera and daily insecurities that we would find unbearable. The people we’ve supported over this past year are in a better place than they were. Many of them are inching their way back to a semblance of normality. But it’s going to take a long time for people’s lives to get back on track, and of course they will never be able to replace the loved ones they have lost. Alongside their struggles, we are here to give them a foot up in their own recovery, as much as we can.
Find out more about our work after the Haiti earthquake
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