Concern intent on preserving the development gains of 16 years in Haiti

February 5, 2010
Photo by Brenda Fitzsimons

A small island off Haiti’s coast is finding itself a haven after the earthquake. While it avoided much of the damage of mainland Haiti, it’s small size and pre-quake lack of resources have made it overcrowded for life long residents and evacuees alike. With our relationship local leaders, we’re working to provide food, water, and shelter to those in need, as well as hold all agencies responsible for what they’ve pledged.

There are thousands of families who have fled the mainland to the small island La Gonâve, just 20 kilometers off Haiti’s northwestern coast, and their numbers are growing.  In a place where the supply of food and clean water for the normal population is uncertain at the best of times, and where the hurricane season is four short months away, the challenge for organizations like Concern is immediate and massive.

Assistant Country Director Brian Tabben, who led Concern’s assessment team on the island, summarized his thoughts:

“It’s sobering. If the population is increasing by something like 20%, then that puts a major stress on communities that are already on the edge. Obviously we need to move quickly to respond here.

“Fortunately, we have a long history on La Gonâve; we have close links with the mayors, with the ministries, with other NGOs here on the island, and with the communities themselves.  That combined with the fact that there is less structural damage here than on the mainland puts us in a good position to respond.  But the job is huge.

“It’s going to mean finding the displaced, ensuring that their needs for water, food and shelter are taken care of, and that the host communities do not slide back. We need to be sure we can preserve some of the development gains of the last several years.  The situation is critical and the response begins today.”

We have close links with the mayors, with the ministries, with other NGOs here on the island, and with the communities themselves.

The Concern team brought plastic sheeting to meet the needs of the families living outside at Grand Source, and is mounting larger scale distributions in the coming days.

Coverage on the progress of these distributions and more about Concern’s ongoing emergency relief efforts in the areas of Nutrition, Water and Sanitation, Cash for Work and Education will continue daily from Haiti.