Moving Forward: Exploring Haiti's Transition from Emergency to Development
In August 2012, a group of congressional staff members traveled with CARE to Haiti to focus on progress and economic and social challenges that remained more than two and a half years after a massive earthquake devastated the country in January 2010.
|The delegation (from left to right) at the CARE Womenâs Solidarity Group in LÃÂ©ogÃÂ¢ne: Alice James, LaVerne Saulny, Jean-Michel Vigreux (Country Director, CARE Haiti), Viviana Bovo, Cesar Gonzalez, David Ray, Tolli Love, Andrew Newton, Terriah Proechel, Stephen Blount, Meghan Taira and Anastasia Moloney.|
In particular, the diverse delegation from Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and New York examined how U.S. foreign assistance programs and recovery efforts centered on economic security, health and gender have helped Haitian families rebuild and strengthen their communities.
The delegation included:
- LaVerne Saulny, Women's Rights/Africa Policy Advisor, Sen. Landrieu (D-LA)
- Cesar Gonzalez, Chief of Staff, Rep. Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
- Andrew Newton, Ag, Health, Homeland Security LA, Sen. Shelby (R-AL)
- Meghan Taira, Health LA, Sen. Schumer (D-NY)
- Viviana Bovo , Director of Special Projects, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
- Alice James, Scheduler/Press Secretary, Sen. Graham (R-SC)
- Anastasia Moloney, Latin America Correspondent, Reuters
- Dr. Stephen Blount, Associate Director for Global Health Development, CDC
|Dr. Stephen Blount, Meghan Taira and LaVerne Saulny met with a Haitian mother named Mouira who participated in CAREâs Neighborhood Improvement Program in Carrefour.|
The group visited CARE, USAID and other international nongovernmental programs that highlighted promising practices and cost-saving solutions. The group also met with high-level government officials, women parliamentarians, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White, and Haiti's First Lady and former CARE staff member Sophia Martelly.
One of the most memorable visits was to CARE's Village Savings and Loans (VSLA) program, which elicited praise from the delegates. The VSLA model in Haiti alone has helped participants save over $147,000 in less than six months, where the average income is $2 a day. The delegation also had the chance to visit CARE's Women's Health Solidarity Program, which includes solidarity groups for women, men and youth. After listening to women speak in the group, LaVerne Saulny from Senator Landrieu's office said the experience really solidified her understanding of why programs are so crucial. She said, "To see how excited these women are about understanding the preventative measures to do so that they can make their choices and to understand the preventive, to be able to be educated and to be enlightened about choices was very good."
|Andrew Newton, Cesar Gonzalez and Alice James take a tour of GHESKIO, a PEPFAR funded not-for-profit health care organization notable for its work in HIV and tuberculosis.|
While the trip was cut a day short due to Hurricane Isaac, the moment proved instructive as it highlighted the need for smart and continued development investments in Haiti. All delegates were evacuated safely, but Isaac proved to be deadly for Haiti, causing eight deaths with flooding and damage to many parts of the country. Weeks later, Haiti was again battered by Hurricane Sandy, which killed a total of 52 people and destroyed 42 percent of Haiti's corn, 30 percent of its rice and 20 percent of its bean crop.
Despite the troubles presented by natural disasters and political turmoil in Haiti, much progress has been made. Although much of the country lay in ruins due to the 2010 earthquake, 2011 saw the first peaceful transition of power to an opposition party in the history of Haiti. The number of people displaced by the earthquake continues to fall as new shelters are built and temporary shelter is converted into permanent housing.
Programs such as CARE's Neighborhood Improvement Program allow for community investment in planned neighborhoods, making linkages with public institutions easier and allowing for better local governance. Recent changes in Haiti's constitution also call for more gender equality, making it a constitutional provision that a minimum of 30 percent of government jobs are reserved for women.
After the trip Reuter's journalist Anastasia Moloney explored the future development priorities in the article titled "How Haiti Can Get Back on its Feet." Additionally, in memory of the third anniversary of the earthquake, CARE shared a press release of their current activities happening in-country and how, through empowering women and girls, these programs help protect families and communities when future disasters occur.
Click here for more information about the Learning Tour to Haiti.