Category Archives: Haiti

A Very British Appeal: 50 years of the Disasters Emergency Committee

So I was off to Haiti again. Nothing new there. But this time I was meeting up with ITV reporter Rageh Omaar to show him and a camera crew around CAFOD’s projects. This was as part of a documentary that’s being screened on ITV on July 2, telling the story of the 50 years of the Disasters Emergency Committee.

Being utterly camera shy, facing this challenge felt enormous.

About the author:  Sarah Marsh is CAFOD’s programme manager in Haiti.

Watch ‘A Very British Appeal: 50 years of the Disasters Emergency Committee’ on Tuesday July 2, 10.35pm >>

CAFOD Sarah Marsh and Rageh Omaar in Port-Au-Prince, Haitiin Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Sarah Marsh and Rageh Omaar in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti with CAFOD

But it’s at moments like this that I realise how much my job has changed me, both professionally and personally, and allowed me to build confidence in places I never would have imagined.

The first day out with Rageh and the crew, and the weather was unseasonally hot. I’m used to it, but skipping over rough terrain with a team weighed down by sound and recording equipment, I suddenly saw people struggling with the heat. The crew were fresh off the plane and at the end of a long run of assignments that had taken them all around the world.

When real exhaustion hit, much to the embarrassment of the camera and sound guys, my CAFOD colleagues and I flew into mothering mode, clucking fussily back and forth bringing rehydration drinks to the fast-fading crew.

We are continuing to support the Haitian people as they recover from one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history >>

What I also saw in this blasting heat was the absolute dedication of our partners and the teams working in the projects. As we all struggled in the midday sun, teams worked away furiously at our permanent construction project building new houses that are earthquake and cyclone resistant.

I saw the same reaction with the children in our disaster management project that has been taking schools through evacuation drills so they’ll be ready for the next earthquake. Again, watching a wilting TV crew try to keep up with the skipping and waving of the children who seemed unaffected by the heat kept me highly amused.

Accompanying a film crew is never really on the list of things you expect to be doing in the humanitarian world and as a programme manager. Far from it actually. I have to admit I had a quiet chat with myself about the fact that this was not at all why I had chosen the career path I am on, and most certainly not the best use of my time.

However, I stand corrected. The crew had a great capacity for patience and understanding of our partners and the communities we work for and with – and I certainly couldn’t articulate our work, and its value to the UK public in the intelligent and compassionate way they have.

It’s also due to the effectiveness of agencies like the DEC that I am able to get on with my work; the value of a coordinating body allowing agencies to get to the more important elements of actually responding with and for the people who need humanitarian aid remains crucial, without the DEC we would not have as much space as we do to get to the ground as fast as we do.

Put it in your diary: A Very British Appeal: 50 years of the Disasters Emergency Committee July 2, 10.35pm ITV >>>

Thinking back on my initial grumpiness at the news that I might supporting the making of a documentary (and yes, it was grumpiness!), I now see that it’s the coordination of different elements within our humanitarian work that makes it work so well, and that includes making sure people know what we’re doing and why via good documentaries and news stories like this one.

It’s the combination of effort that allows the contribution of the UK public to be effective and relevant, and most importantly shared.

Thanks to all and I hope you’ll tune in.

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Haiti: three years on

haiti-earthquake-damageBy Pascale Palmer. Originally published in the Catholic Herald.

Three years ago on January 12 a catastrophic earthquake shook the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, devastating Haiti.

Within minutes thousands of poorly-made homes and buildings collapsed. Nearly a quarter of a million children, women and men died. At least one million people were made homeless. Amongst the dead was the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, most of the leadership of the UN programme, and nearly a third of the country’s civil servants.

Video, photos and more information about CAFOD’s response to the earthquake>>

In the aftermath of the earthquake, aid agencies from around the world mobilised, while the US government deployed large numbers of troops to support food distribution and security. Trying to haul machinery, building materials, toilets or water through a country whose roads had been destroyed or needed to be cleared of rubble, was a huge undertaking.

Three years on, all the rubble in the capital Port-au-Prince has been cleared from the streets, and the worst-hit buildings demolished. The majority of people have been moved from camps into transitional or permanent homes, and the capital is busy with life and activity. Some of the public parks, previously used as camps, have now been cleaned and tended, and returned to former glory.

To suggest times have been hard for Haitians since 2010 is an insult to what people have had to suffer. Continue reading

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Dispatch from Haiti: three years after the earthquake

Mike Noyes, our Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia and Latin America, talks from Haiti about the progress made since the earthquake.

Read more about our response>>

Pray for the people of Haiti>>

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by | January 7, 2013 · 3:18 pm

Fifty years of responding to emergencies: Haiti, 2010

In his final blog about how we’ve responded to emergencies over the last 50 years, Mike Noyes, our Head of Humanitarian Programmes for Asia and Latin America, remembers the Haiti earthquake.

On 12 January 2010, just after 4pm in the afternoon, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, centred not far from its crowded capital, Port-au-Prince.  Almost a quarter of a million people were killed, including about a third of the country’s civil servants, most of the leadership of the UN programme in the country and the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince.

Around three million people were affected by the impact of the earthquake and at least one million people were made homeless.  The massive destruction of buildings and roads was a major handicap to initial relief efforts, which saw not just the mobilisation of aid agencies from all around the world but the short term deployment of large numbers of US troops.

The Catholic community of England and Wales responded with massive generosity to our appeal, and we began working with both Haitian and international partners, including Catholic Relief Services.  In the first six months, we deployed seven staff members on long or short term secondments to help the Caritas response and, amongst other things, we supported the provision of water and sanitation services for 40,000 displaced people.

In the two and a half years since the earthquake, we have continued to provide major support in the water and sanitation sector, building latrines to accompany new homes as people move out of camps, rebuilding cholera units in hospitals, and teaching children in schools about the importance of good sanitation.

The Haiti earthquake was the first major emergency I was involved with after joining CAFOD. Continue reading

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Haiti: applaud the successes

Sarah Marsh is our Programme Officer for Haiti.

Haiti two years on: our response>>

“Rubble still lines the street of Port au Prince”, “people are still living in tents”, “millions of dollars of aid funding are still unspent”, “the response is too slow” – all tag lines that we have become used to hearing since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It’s time for the commentators to take a step back and break it down to the bones of what really happened.

Disaster – check.

Crisis – check.

Emergency – check.

Disease – check.

Political failure  – check.

Civil unrest – check.

Death – check.

Not many countries in the world have been hit as badly as Haiti in the past two years. The country has had multiple emergencies in less than 24 months. Not only has it endured its worst disaster since Independence, it is struggling with the immense task of controlling the now-endemic outbreak of cholera across a country that has little or no sanitation, along with devastating storms and outbreaks of violence and civil unrest.

Continue reading

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