The earthquake in Haiti is one of the most devastating natural disasters the world has ever seen, resulting in a staggering loss of life as well as damage to buildings, roads and infrastructure. Presented with these massive challenges and needs, how do aid agencies like Islamic Relief go about the process of delivering aid to those people that need it?
In all emergency situations relationships with local communities are the key to the success of an aid agency’s work, allowing them to understand the needs and deliver aid in the most appropriate and efficient way. After a disaster such as Haiti where the needs are so vast and tensions often run high, it is especially important to develop a positive working relationship with local people.
Action and delivery
Just ten days after the earthquake Islamic Relief had completed the construction of the first organised camp for more than 860 people who had lost their homes in the disaster. The camp is situated in Delmas area of Port-au-Prince in a former sports field where people had erected makeshift shelters made from bed-sheets and bits of plastic. There were no clean water or sanitation facilities, and people were living in unhygienic conditions.
Within 24 hours of receiving our tents Islamic Relief had completed the construction of this camp and the first inhabitants were able to move in.
Doing it differently
Islamic Relief aid worker Moadh Kheriji explained how this came about, “In setting up an organised camp we were not only attempting to do something that had not been done until now but we chose to do it differently. Rather than alienating people with a large security presence, we chose to talk to them and ask them to work with us.”
“We met with the residents of the camp, asked if they would listen to what we had to say and gave them a chance to express their concerns,” said Moadh. “The delays in aid getting through caused real frustration and anger amongst the local population and this led to some scenes of violence, so sitting with local people was incredibly important.”
The most pressing needs for people in the camp were food, water and shelter, and after consultation with the residents it was agreed that this was what Islamic Relief would provide. The land was divided into plots where families would have their tents, with adequate space between them to offer some privacy.
Moadh said, “When people lose their home and almost all their possessions, the little they have left can become very valuable. The small space that the families have come to occupy since the day of the earthquake is all they have and they have become very attached to it.”
“Having set up the tents we asked the residents if they were happy with what we had provided them. They all broke out into applause.”
More help needed
However, there are still many families that are still in desperate need of assistance, including Briere Abraham, a head-teacher whose school collapsed in the earthquake.
“Briere told me that although he managed to escape, his wife was not so lucky,” said Moadh. “She was killed instantly when the school building collapsed. She was 25-years old. Briere managed to get her body out from under the rubble but has not been able to give her a proper burial because he has no money.”
“Briere lost his house and all his belongs and is now living in a makeshift camp with his three-year-old son Wawa. He told me that Wawa is suffering from fever because their makeshift shelter offers no protection from the elements.”
“As I left Briere I prayed that our donors who have been very generous so far will continue to dig deep in their pockets and donate, so that we can extend our support to Briere, Wawa and thousands of other homeless families in Port-au-Prince.”
Please help Islamic Relief provide further support to communities devastated by the earthquake. Please give generously to Islamic Relief.