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Haiti: Two Years Later, a New Beginning
WASHINGTON - January 12 - Two years ago, Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake that claimed the lives of 220,000 people and affected more than 3 million. Handicap International, present in the country since 2008, was able to respond to the disaster immediately, and the organization remains committed to ensuring that people with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals have access to the services they need.
Handicap International is going to continue working in the country beyond the emergency phase to support Haiti as it moves into the reconstruction and development phase. “The Haitian people are just beginning to turn the page after the 2010 earthquake, but there is still a huge amount of work left to do,” stressed Benoît Aurenche, Handicap International Haiti Project Manager. He was in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck and he has returned to the country several times over the last two years. “The emergency humanitarian response was essential. Today, it is vital that the focus shifts to development actions. The Haitian people are extremely concerned about what is going to happen now,” Aurenche added.
“It would be irresponsible to stop our activities now,” explained Patrick Senia, Head of Development Operations in Haiti. “It is essential that the Haitians themselves can provide the health services that have been temporarily made available by humanitarian organizations. It is also important to ensure the long-term social and economic inclusion of vulnerable persons…now is the time to make the efforts required that will allow the country to genuinely make a new start.”
In 2012, the organization plans to finalize its emergency actions; implement rapid response mechanisms to reduce the impact of future natural disasters; and advocate for persons with disabilities by ensuring that buildings are accessible and implementing income-generating activities for the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities.
In addition, the services that are currently provided at the orthopedic fitting center, opened by the organization to help earthquake victims, are being transferred to local organizations. To do so, Handicap International is training its Haitian staff to ensure the sustainability of its rehabilitation and orthopedic fitting services, as well as developing national-level rehabilitation training.
"After two years working to support the victims of the earthquake, it is time to demonstrate that the humanitarian solutions put into place were not just a stopgap,” emphasized Patrick Senia. “This first and foremost requires training, increased involvement from our partners (who can guarantee the long-term results of the projects developed) and support for drawing up public policy. Handicap International hopes to continue its activities in Haiti until persons with disabilities in the country have access to their rights. We are determined not to give up until we reach this goal.”
For more information about Handicap International’s work in Haiti, please read the 24-Month Situation Report, which is available on the Handicap International U.S. website: www.handicap-international.us