Three years after a deadly earthquake devastated Haiti, political gridlock, donor fatigue and chaotic property laws continue to stall the rebuilding effort.
But the humanitarian organization CARE is working to remove another, oft-overlooked barrier — lack of participation by women — as a way to build a better foundation for the future.
“Whether you’re talking about creating homes, jobs or reliable local sources of food, the reconstruction of Haiti isn’t sustainable if women and girls aren’t fully integrated into the process,” says Jean-Michel Vigreux, country director of CARE in Haiti. “They hold the key to turning things around.”
Women, for instance, account for more than 80 per cent of the nearly 5,000 people participating in CARE’s village savings and loans associations (VSLA) program. Started in November 2011, the VSLA program is designed to reach 300,000 people within five years. Participants come together in groups of about 30 people to save and loan each other money, allowing members to start small businesses, save up for home construction or make other investments. And unlike many microfinance models, CARE’s savings-led approach does not involve outside loans.
Women, who often have no access to the formal banking system, have used small loans to launch businesses selling food, school uniforms, household products and beauty supplies. Many report that, for the first time, they have access to savings that earn interest and loans from sources other than loan sharks who charge 100 per cent interest rates.
Nevertheless, basic housing remains a major challenge in Haiti’s capital. Some 350,000 people still live in 496 camps scattered around the city. CARE has taken a new approach to reducing those numbers in the capital’s Carrefour area, offering to repair houses for homeowners who are willing to host a camp family for one year rent free. To support long-term change in urban development, only neighborhood “bosses”, or construction workers, are used. Each must be trained following the Haitian Ministry of Public Works post-earthquake building code standards.
In Carrefour, CARE Canada’s emergency team is working on a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded project to improve sanitation and hygiene for earthquake-affected families. By July 2013, this project will reach approximately 25,000 people with new latrines, sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices messaging.
“Far too many people have died from water-borne diseases such as cholera,” says Kevin McCort, president and CEO of CARE Canada. “Together with CIDA’s support, we are working to reduce deaths from such illnesses and promote a healthy future for this community.”
In the wake of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, CARE’s emergency response team delivered life-saving food, water, shelter and other vital services to 290,000 Haitians. CARE also built 2,550 transitional shelters to house roughly 13,400 people and built and rehabilitated 2,500 latrines and showers.
“Even before the earthquake three years ago we knew development in Haiti would be a long-term challenge,” says McCort. “I think it’s really important for Canadians to know that despite additional hardships created by Hurricane Sandy – we still hold the same optimism for Haiti’s future as we did three years ago.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Director, Communications and Marketing, CARE Canada
Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading international humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. In over 80 countries, CARE works with the poorest communities to improve basic health and education, enhance rural livelihoods and food security, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, help vulnerable people adapt to climate change and provide lifesaving assistance during emergencies. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls living in poverty because, equipped with the proper resources, women and girls have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty.