Notes from the Field
USCRI Reports from the Haiti-Dominican Republic Border
Since the January 12 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, USCRI and our local partner organization Groupe d'Appui aux Rapatries et Refugies (GARR) have worked tirelessly to provide protection monitoring for those made homeless by the devastating event. Traveling toward the border region of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, our staff members found spontaneous settlements of internally displaced people (IDPs) who fled to these rural surroundings seeking food and shelter.
“The humanitarian situation is unsatisfactory, given the conditions these people are living in,” Elou Fleurine, USCRI’s staff member on the ground, reported. Humanitarian assistance is lacking in these remote communities because most nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are concentrating their efforts in Port-au-Prince. In fact, aside from USCRI partner GARR, which worked along the border prior to the earthquake and was therefore familiar with the area, no other NGO has ventured out to these spontaneous settlements to provide relief. Even the Haitian government is unaware of the plight of these IDPs.
Fleurine pointed out that some of the most vulnerable population groups, including women with children, orphans, and the elderly, are struggling to survive in the border communities. Many have yet to receive any food assistance. They are in critical need of water, shelter materials, health and sanitation services, and essential non-food items such as water containers, blankets, mosquito nets, and soap.
As protection monitoring NGOs, USCRI and GARR aim to promote the rights of the IDPs. While there is still considerable work to be done in the border communities, USCRI and GARR applaud the efforts of the international community to incorporate the protection of rights as a fundamental component of the humanitarian response in Haiti.
The reconstruction process of Haiti is being implemented by the U.N. Cluster System. This system ensures that humanitarian aid on the ground is a coordinated action between the U.N., various governments, and NGOs. USCRI/GARR continue to bring important assets to the protection cluster, including a local perspective, extensive experience, resources, capacity, and international credibility. It is this combination that is a true asset when designing and implementing activities that are relevant to the lives and needs of those we assist.
Although going back to Haiti was a great personal challenge for Fleurine, who had to leave his family and coworkers behind in the United States, as a Haitian-American he is very proud to have a chance to do what he can to help the country of his birth recover from such a devastating event. “Haiti needs solidarity from everyone,” he said, delighted that USCRI/GARR gave him the opportunity to utilize his skills and experience to assist in the rebuilding of Haiti.
On a personal level, Fleurine’s family and friends have been greatly affected by the earthquake. Some of his friends are still unaccounted for. Due to health complications and lack of medical assistance, Fleurine’s father passed away two weeks after the tragic event.
Fleurine’s work in Haiti has given him a new perspective on life and he is very thankful for it. As he put it, “Returning to Haiti, for me, appears to be a perfect example of what someone like me needs to do in order to provide real and effective relief for the Haitian people.”
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