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Rebuilding of Haiti must be inclusive and decentralized
February 11, 2010

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Feb. 11, 2010 – "Haiti demands a reconstruction rooted in decentralization, diversification and specialization," said Fr. Regino Martinez, S.J. on Tuesday. Fr. Martinez, the Director of Solidaridad Fronteriza in the border town of Dajabon in the Dominican Republic, has been leading a relief effort in Ouanaminte and Cap Haitien and other towns. 

He stressed the need to address the urgent humanitarian crisis created by displaced populations fleeing Port-a- Prince. The Haitian government says more than 467,000 displaced people have since left the capital city of Port-au-Prince for other locations in Haiti.

Decentralization will contribute to strengthening governmental structures in regions at a distance from the traditional center of power in the capital city. The key for short-term reconstruction must rest in local governments with oversight from civil society. Diversification would allow displaced communities to access integrated services that could help break the cycle of dependence of humanitarian aid.  
For example, while food, water and sanitation are essential survival elements for victims, the provision of jobs would allow displaced communities to obtain a way to build their own homes, thereby easing the transition from displacement camps. Specialization, particularly by humanitarian aid agencies, would increase the effectiveness of key organizations that provide aid supplies so that aid is not wasted and replication of efforts is avoided.

Fr. Ken Gavin, S.J., JRS/USA's National Director, said that before a grand plan for the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince is formulated, there is an immediate need to reach out to  the many Haitians displaced by the recent earthquake and help them rebuild the social fabric of their lives. 
On February 6, the government of Haiti reported 212,000 deaths and more than 300,000 injuries as a result of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie is in Haiti where she met with survivors of last month's devastating earthquake as well as some of the local and international aid workers assisting in the relief effort.

“It will take years to rebuild Haiti,” Ms. Jolie, a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said. 

“Every day, the UN, governments, NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and local organizations are providing more people with protection, food, water, shelter and health care, yet the needs are still enormous and the displacement could last a decade,” she said.

Learn more about Haiti relief efforts here.

The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. The U.S. Agency for International Development encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, and warehouse space); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

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