The European Union just released over nine million Euro in humanitarian aidbecause the food security situation perches at the edge of crisis. According to the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, almost a quarter of Haiti’s population faces critical food shortage.
That situation doesn’t look to improve in the near future, either. Already acknowledged as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, almost 75-percent of Haiti’s population exists on less than $2 a day. Smaller ministries with a long history on the Caribbean island nation find themselves spread too thin to cover everything.For Haiti With Love is an excellent example of what Non-Government Organizations (NOGs) face with the ongoing issues.
Making difficult decisions
Once, FHL had a food program where staff regularly distributed black beans and rice packets to the poor. Today, when asked how they are addressing the increasing food needs, Executive Director Eva DeHart hesitated a moment before saying, “In a one-line answer, ‘we aren’t.'”
She went on to explain that as poverty increased, so too did desperation. “When hunger hits this level, we can’t afford the amount of security that would be required for Roseline (FHL’s Vice President Haiti Operations) to handle a food program.”
Other costs related to the food program skyrocketed, and, DeHart says, they had to make a decision. “We need to stay focused; it’s how we can best glorify God, and not get extended over our heads to the point where we have to be more concerned about our security and our staff security, then we are the help we are giving.”
Other larger NGOs are tackling the food issues, but those dealing with the frequency of burn emergencies were far and few between. Where there are a lot of people and a lot of open fires, there are a lot of burns. FHL offers a free burn clinic where patients get much needed and specialized medical care.
However, that too presents challenges. “Pharmaceutical companies used to give us the burn cream they used to give us bandages; pharmaceutical companies are no longer philanthropic. So big part of my job is finding the best possible price that I can find for the items that are needed to keep the burn clinic operational and fully functional.”
Facing other challenges
The EU’s help is timely, but the issue of poverty goes much deeper than answering a food shortage. Poverty magnifies every issue in Haiti. DeHart shares concern over another problem that will soon manifest in disease. “Streets are so full of trash and garbage now that it is really difficult to take out a vehicle and come back without tires all shredded from broken glass and tie and nails and stuff.”
Sanitation challenges complicate public health issuescreated by the garbage, explains DeHart, and circle back around to tie in with the food shortage. “With the population constantly that knee-deep with garbage, you’re going to start seeing all of the old diseases activate because their nutrition level is down. They’re getting weaker; they’re more vulnerable to the diseases that are going to be created by all that waste product around them.”
From despair to hope
After so many decades of desperation in Haiti, DeHart says people respond to hope. It’s a hope in Christ reflected by their staff as they work in the burn clinic and build houses. One question often asked, says DeHart, is ‘Why are you helping me?’ The privilege of serving the poorest of the poor as the hands and feet of Christ opens the door for a lot of other questions about Christ as Savior and what it means to follow Him.
To that end, DeHart admits that each day is a challenge for a ministry like FHL, and it’s a monumental task to be part of the solution. “Pray for all of Haiti. It is just so sad what is happening, and the people are so helpless to change it. There’s going to be a lot of people who die before it gets turned around. We need to touch as many souls as we can.”
Headline photo courtesy of Flickr/CC/Alex Proimos