On January 12th 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the southern portion of Haiti. The poorest nation with one of the highest population density in the western hemisphere was left reeling with hundreds of thousands killed or injured and more than a million people left homeless. The NGO I work with, World Vision, was one of the first to respond. In addition to providing water and food, we took responsibility for shelter construction in a number of locations. In May of last year, I was helping out at a place called Corail Camp, about 10Km outside of Port Au Prince. This was land slated to become home to over a thousand families. I remember the stress, dust and arguments as we worked to get the camp ready. Corail seemed so desolate and far removed from the capital. Its remoteness was a worry to me and yet, it offered the potential to get some people out of the risky, congested tent-cities in the capital. Still, Corail would only be able to deal with a tiny fraction of population affected. Privately I wondered how we could ever make a difference just given the scale of the problems.
That was a year ago. As I start to get this dedicated site up and running, I thought I would briefly mention some of the good news that can be hard to come by when you are dealing with disasters and conflicts. At the beginning of this year, basic kits for proper hygiene and survival were handed to more than 350,000 people in Haiti. Our systems were used in a number of these distributions to make a real difference in speeding up the process, helping to ensure that those identified for aid; received it, and allowing aid workers to bypass the inefficient manner of paper data entry so that they could spend more time with those affected by the disaster. Today, we are helping people rebuild the livelihoods of more than 15,000 families (and growing!) with innovative cash-for-work programs in which LMMS is being integrated, helping to ensure that people get timely and safe access to money in exchange for their work efforts to improve on their own country’s clean-up and reconstruction. More than 80,000 people have had LMMS help them directly in food and cash projects.
The humanitarian challenges have been enormous, not least of which being to move families into longer term, transitional shelters. Land shortages and land tenure have been two pressing issues that have hampered the work of the UN and aid agencies. But every journey begins with a single step. The good news that brightened my day today, is that this very camp, where I had my reservations and concerns a year ago, has witnessed the transition of over a 1000 families into safer homes that guard against hurricanes and offer a better future to people as they rebuild their lives. The Canadian International Development Agency and the Government of Taiwan helped fund this important work. And again our LMMS systems were used to plan distributions and in accounting for these homes as they passed into the hands of Haitians.