Haiti (BCS/MNN) — There’s an old Haitian saying that goes, “Beyond mountains, lie mountains.” It’s fitting, considering another hit the poorest country in the northern hemisphere has taken.
Recovery involves two phases: immediate needs and long-term reconstruction of lives.
The United Nations has asked for $120 million (USD) for Haiti for recovery programs in the wake of Hurricane Matthew’s destruction. The funds are aimed at meeting basic needs for the next three months for an estimated 1.4 million struggling Haitian survivors. Almost $70 million would be earmarked for water, sanitation, and medical efforts.
There are three major challenges in the response to Haiti:
First, even as the call goes out for aid, faith-based ministries aren’t waiting around for the trickle of funds to come in. Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit organization committed to bringing and keeping families together, is already mobilized to help vulnerable children and families devastated by the storm. Crops and food reserves were destroyed, and small villages were nearly wiped off the map.
“The immediate need remains for food, shelter, clean water, clothing, and physical safety for children and families who’ve lost everything,” said Kristi Gleason, senior director of global programs.
Second, the lack of clean drinking water has also generated fears of a cholera outbreak. Already this year, there have been 27,000 new cholera cases. Haiti, still recovering from the deadly 2010 earthquake, had more than 55,000 people living in tents and makeshift homes — all of whom were vulnerable to the fury of Matthew.
Third, the risk of human trafficking rises exponentially. Gleason heads to Haiti next week. Bethany Global, in partnership with Lumos, will serve as the central hub to train and deploy Haitian social workers to the hardest hit areas of the southwest corridor.
She explains parents sometimes can’t keep their kids with them. Following a major disaster, hundreds of children wind up at orphanages, in restavecs, or in child domesticity situations.
“Really, our focus for the next coming months is making sure kids are safe; identifying kids who have been separated from their families due to this hurricane, but really focusing on families that are so, so vulnerable and helping to keep them together.” Then, she says, “We’re working on getting emergency foster families approved, set up, and trained in Port au Prince, and hopefully setting up foster families in the southern areas.”
Formed teams will work to identify orphanages that have been damaged, complete assessment needs for children, and work in conjunction with the Haitian government’s Institut du Bien-Etre Social et de recherches – IBESR (in English: Institute of Social Well-Being and Research) to coordinate efforts with police to prevent trafficking.
“Bethany has a long-standing commitment to vulnerable children and families in Port Au Prince’s tent cities. Thankfully all the families, children, and staff we work with are safe, but there is still much work to be done to protect the lives of the children and families we serve,” shared Pastor Vijonet Demero, Haiti country director.
Bethany Global has been operating in Haiti since 2006. Efforts ramped up in 2009, and in 2015 Bethany officially launched Foster Care in partnership with the IBESR placing five children in three homes. To date nearly 50 families and 400 children have been served through family preservation programs which provide day-to-day basics needs such as food, clean water, and access to health care and education.
That’s another major part of their response: an effective way to distribute resources. Gleason says, “The best and easiest way for us to mobilize is through the local church. So, in the area of Port au Prince (which is where most of our work occurs), we have a network of over 60 churches and pastors that we work with on issues surrounding child protection and child welfare.”
In situations where people are being forced to rebuild their lives for the second time in six years, the hope found in a biblical community brings a lot of opportunities to share the Gospel.
When asked what people can do to help, Gleason noted prayer for peace. “There’s lots of looting and other violent things happening right now as families and people are fighting for resources. Pray for relief efforts to get easily delivered. We’re looking at problems with transportation. The roads still aren’t very passable.”
As to giving, you can empower Bethany’s staff to respond to the needs of children and families by visiting Bethany.org/HelpHaiti. Their goal: $50,000.
The ‘go’ part of the call and response may take some time. Right now, it’s chaotic in Haiti. Their partners just aren’t ready for extra people yet…. It may take a while to know the best way for hands to help. Stay tuned…there will be more to come.