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Haitians demonstrate solidarity in wake of disaster
January 28, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) Jan. 28, 2010 – The United Nations says that the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 has killed at least 112,000 people, and injured 194,000. Other estimates suggest that 200,000 people were killed, and an accurate number may never be known. More than one million Haitians are now homeless.
 
“In Port-au-Prince there hundreds and hundreds of camps for displaced persons. We (the Jesuits in Haiti and) the Jesuits of the Dominican Republic are supporting six centers with between 2,000 and 5,000 people in each. We give them food, medicine and care from medical volunteers who come from the United States and the Dominican Republic,” said Fr. Wismith Lazard, S.J., of Jesuit Refugee Service – Haiti.



“The impact and consequences of the disaster of January 12 on Haitian society are immeasurable,” said Fr, Kawas Francois, S.J.  “All our institutions: the State, city government, churches including the Catholic Church, hospitals, schools, banking and commerce, have suffered a blow without precedent. Morally and psychologically, the population has suffered a deep trauma. It will take a long time to recover.”

Despite the shock to their society, Haitians have been quick to assist their fellow citizens in recovery efforts.
 
“The people have shown an unparalleled solidarity: assisting the wounded, sharing food and water,” said Fr. Francois. “Without this solidarity – spontaneous and effective – I don’t see how people could survive.”



If the international community provides the necessary funds for the rebuilding of Haiti, what role will Haitians play in the process, wonders Fr. Francois. “We are convinced that rebuilding the country is first and foremost a national issue. It is not the business of government alone. The main actors must be the Haitians themselves, all Haitians without distinction. Haitian civil society in all its components must be mobilized to assist in (the rebuilding) of Haiti,” he said.
 
The United Nations agrees. Haitians must have leadership of the post-earthquake recovery process, top United Nations humanitarian officials stressed earlier this week.



Senior UN officials and foreign ministers from more than a dozen nations converged in Montreal Tuesday for a “Friends of Haiti” meeting to discuss Haiti 's future.  There was wide agreement among the participants “on the kind of process we now need to start” before a donors' conference slated to be held in March at UN Headquarters in New York, said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes. 
 
Those taking part underscored the importance of Haitian ownership of the recovery process, as well as the need to plan ahead for the post-recovery stage of rebuilding the impoverished country, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. 
 
Also identified as vital at the Montreal summit is “the restoration of national authority after the disruption by the earthquake,” as well as “getting people back to work as quickly as possible,” Jordan Ryan, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery for the UN Development Program, said. 
 
Prior to the catastrophic earthquake, Haiti was making tremendous strides and now the country has the opportunity to “build back better” and push ahead with the democratic renewal that was already under way prior to the tremors, he said.



Jesuit Refugee Service/USA has received several offers of donations consisting of clothing, food and blankets. While we certainly appreciate these offers, it is simply not possible for us to accept them. The best way to help is to donate financially to organizations such as JRS/USA responding to the disaster. Cash allows relief professionals to procure exactly what is needed in a disaster situation and ensure that donations are culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate. Cash donations do not use up other scarce resources, such as transportation, staff time or warehouse space. As needed, cash can also be transferred quickly to where needed, helping bolster the economy of the disaster-stricken region.
 
Learn more about JRS in Haiti here: http://www.jrsusa.org/haiti


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Mr Christian Fuchs
cfuchs@jesuit.org
202-462-0400 ext. 5946