Demeter, an AMURT representative in Haiti, writes to Stuart Conway, Trees, Water & People’s International Director, “We are responding to this disaster with the goal of coming forward with a very strong integrated strategy which is sustainable and model in many different aspects, particularly its community-based approach. It will be great if we work together to fundraise and support this effort.”
The following is AMURT’s weekly strategies and developments report for their programs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti:
INITIAL RELIEF EFFORTS
When the earthquake struck Haiti, AMURT-Haiti’s experienced and tested staff were on the ground both in Port-au-Prince and in the Northwest Arbonite. Our team response was immediate and impactful. Since the first day of the disaster AMURT has been applying its community-based Emergency Management Response Plan, which had been honed in Gonaives in the days and weeks after the 2008 hurricanes. The first steps involved facilitating the transfer of food, medical services, water, and non-food items from the large aid agencies into the hands of the smaller community-based groups who are best positioned to effectively facilitate distribution. The initial intervention targeted those most heavily impacted by the earthquake, providing transport of wounded and supplies to hospitals, and assisting residents in the slum areas of Boudon, Cite O’Kay and Cite Jereme. During the first 7 days following the disaster, AMURT assisted more than 15,000 residents, providing daily mobile medical clinics, hot soup kitchens and the distribution of dry food rations.
For a number of years, AMURT-Haiti has been one of the World Food Program’s principal partners in Haiti, providing emergency food distribution and food for work development projects in both Port-au-Prince and the Northwest Arbonite. On January 20th, the two agencies signed an Emergency Management contract, open ended in quantity, which allows AMURT to distribute food to its local community-based partners. AMURT has already begun its first major food distributions, initially prioritizing orphanages, refugee camps, slums, local charity groups and community organizations. In the first week, the distribution will include 15 metric tons of rice, beans, canned food and oil for approximately 20,000 area residents of Boudon, Cite O’Kay and Cite Jereme. This will increase in subsequent weeks to include the greater population of these areas which is over 40,000. AMURT is also preparing its local partners in the areas of Delmas and Boudon to gradually increase these distributions to include 60,000 people a month over the next 3-month period. The NGO’s goal is to transition from emergency food distribution to food-for-work community-based programs within the first 3-month period of intervention.
AMURT-Haiti has been providing daily mobile clinics in the valley communities of Boudon, reaching out to the most isolated slum areas. In Delmas, AMURT is working with our community-based partners providing logistical support and community facilitation, transport of medicine and patients, and providing support for medical volunteers who are beginning to arrive in greater numbers. On January 24, our first AMURT medical team will be arriving, beginning the process of rotating teams in week or two week long shifts, providing mobile clinics in the areas of Delmas and Boudon. Over the next weeks, AMURT will continue expanding support for its established network of community-based partners, to ensure that supplies arrive in time, are directed to where they are most needed, and that no one remains without medical support.
Simultaneous with its emergency response, AMURT-Haiti is maintaining its long-term focus on developing sustainable solutions for Haiti’s historically challenging problems. In this regard, working with its long-term partner Trees, Water, & People to bring more than 300 Ecological Rocket stoves, a low cost and sustainable cooking solution using scraps of wood and branches. AMURT is initiating a stove usage training workshop for the informal camp committees in Boudon and Delmas in the use of the stoves, helping in this way to mitigate the environmental impact of the disaster. The stoves will be part of AMURT’s facilitation allowing local committees to manage mass canteens for the neighborhood’s most vulnerable groups – children, elderly, sick, and people with disabilities.
AMURT-Haiti’s greatest strength has always been its development of and relationship with grassroots organizing and local leadership. AMURT has continued facilitating this work through daily assessments of needs and capacities, holding community forums, and implementing strategies to a decision-making process that is all-inclusive, systematic, and efficient. Our community facilitators have been covering the affected areas immediately surrounding our two bases, in Boudon and Delmas 31, identifying leadership structures, attempting to provide seamless coordination in ongoing food distribution programs. Once stability has been established, the next phase, planned to begin in 2 weeks, is the initiation of regional coordination councils, that will be maintain overall communication and coordination of our community-based disaster response. The goal of this process is the reduction of inevitable coordination and communication gaps inherent in large-scale disaster response, and the preparation and implementation of a sustainable community-based recovery phase.
AMURT will continue to align both its immediate and long-term response through the lens of the human rights-based framework of community empowerment, self-determination, and leadership capacity building. With its long-term strategic partners, AMURT has begun planning longer-term sustainable programs focusing on nurturing and reinforcing patterns of decentralization, sustainability, and local self-sufficiency so critical to Haiti’s future.
For a better understanding of this approach, please view AMURT’s past and current community-based projects at http://www.amurthaiti.org