"The situation in Haiti is very difficult now. Before the earthquake, the situation was bad. Now, the situation is worse. We have a lot of unemployment, that's a real problem. Many children can't go to school, because so many schools collapsed in the earthquake-affected areas," said Fr. Kawas Francois, S.J.
The Jesuit community in Haiti organized the National Committee for Reflection and Action (Cellule de Refexion et d’Action Nationale – CRAN), composed of Jesuits and members of Haitian civil society who work together on an ongoing basis to accompany the Haitian people, their leaders, and the international community in their efforts to rebuild Haiti.
More than 80% of the population in the earthquake affected areas still live in camps. The situation is characterized by extremely high rates of unemployment and poor sanitation in the camps.
"Port-au-Prince is becoming a capital of camps. It is a big problem, and it is a new situation for both the people and the government. And the government does not have the capacity to alleviate the problem of the camps. In the camps, people have no privacy for showering, young women are forced to do so in the open," said Fr. Wismith Lazard, S.J.
"There are health problems in the camps caused by the lack of sanitation, poor drainage and garbage piling up," he said. Jesuit Refugee Service is urging the international community and the Haitian government to ensure coordination of food aid, sanitation, water so that camps are not left bereft.
Fr. Lazard leads Jesuit Refugee Service in Haiti. While continuing to maintain its presence along the Northeastern border, JRS Haiti is focusing its current relief efforts in the Port-au-Prince area, working in seven camps that serve the needs of more than 21,000 displaced people in and around the capital.
JRS accompanies victims of the earthquake by providing pastoral and psychosocial assistance for both individuals and groups. JRS is also providing assistance in coordinating committees in the camps through management training sessions and regular meetings so that the displaced people are able to develop their own recovery and reconstruction initiatives.
“Through the Jesuit Fe y Alegria network Haitian Jesuits are working to promote universal education in Haiti, a key necessity in helping to build a resilient and sustainable Haitian-led recovery,” said Fr. Kenneth J. Gavin, National Director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
While two Fe y Alegria schools already exist in the city of Ouanaminthe and Balan, the Jesuits of Haiti plan to open 17 new education centers that will educate youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds while providing teacher training to promote quality education. The Fe y Alegria school system is present throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and was designed to promote local capacity for a public education system. Traditionally Fe y Alegria opens schools in communities where schools are not present, arriving at an agreement with the local government to build and provide the infrastructure for a school and to provide formal training for teachers. The local government in turn pledges to begin to build an education system, commencing by committing to fund a portion of teacher salaries.
"Education is important. Most of the students in Port-au-Prince and the affected areas can't go to school. So we are working to re-open schools, so children can return to their education," said Fr. Francois.
Fr. Lazard noted that "Fe y Alegria and JRS have set up tents in some of the camps to use as classrooms, so we can provide education to children there."
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