D&P pleas for Haitian aid

  • October 29, 2008
{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace is seeking funds to help Haiti recover from a series of devastating hurricanes.

“This is the worst impact from hurricanes that we’ve seen in decades,” said Anne Catherine Kennedy, Development and Peace program officer for Brazil and Haiti.
The series of storms in August and September heavily damaged what little infrastructure Haiti had and wiped out 60-80 per cent of its agriculture, she said.

The violent storms have left 700 dead and 800,000 in need of emergency assistance. Various aid agencies have estimated Haiti needs billions in assistance.

Though some news reports complained international aid was not reaching those who needed it, Kennedy said she was confident in Development and Peace's choice of Haitian partners, including Caritas Haiti. Like Development and Peace, this organization is part of the Vatican-based umbrella group Caritas Internationalis.

Development and Peace has committed $270,000 to three projects that will be implemented through the Papaye Peasants’ Movement, Famn Deside and Caritas Haiti. The projects will help 35,000 Haitians not only with emergency aid but also long-term reconstruction.

“We already know that we have really good coverage of the country,” she said, noting aid “gets to the people who most need it depending on who are your partners in the field.”

Having a “good partner base” is critical to avoid problems of corruption. She also stressed the importance of contact with civil society groups.

“It’s easy to sort of critique the pace and the organization of this aid, but I think it’s because the amount of aid is so beyond comprehension,” she said. “It takes a while for things to be properly organized and costs a lot of money.”

Kennedy said the natural disaster was compounded by the pre-existing poverty in Haiti, and the effects are likely to be repeated if the Haitian government does not develop reforestation and national agriculture programs.

Poverty causes people to strip the hillsides for fuel, leaving them vulnerable to mudslides in heavy rains, she said. Inability to make a living in the countryside forces people to move to cities where they live in rickety shanty-towns that are easily washed away in floods.

“We need to stop cutting down the trees, take care of the environment, the river beds and the poverty, so people are not as vulnerable to these things,” she said, noting that nearby Cuba experienced the same storms but nowhere near the loss of life.

Development and Peace is the development arm of Canada’s Catholic bishops. More information is available at www.devp.org.

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