Anglican leaders in Haiti spell out aid and recovery priorities

By agency reporter
January 24, 2010

Jean Zaché Duracin, the Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of the Diocese of Haiti, and other church officials, gave a first-hand briefing about their relief and recovery priorities to two Episcopal Relief and Development workers on 22 January 2010.

The meeting came 10 days after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake caused devastation across wide swathes of Haiti just before 5:00 p.m. local time on 12 January, writes Mary Frances Schjonberg of the Episcopal News Service.

It was the second time Katie Mears, the agency's programme manager for USA disaster preparedness and response, and Kirsten Muth, Episcopal Relief and Development's senior programme director, have been in Port-au-Prince to assist the diocese in the last week.

During that time, Mears and Muth have been operating out of the Dominican Republic, the country which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. They are assisting the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic's efforts to aid its neighbours to the west, as well as the Haitian diocese itself.

The Haitian diocese has suffered greatly from the quake. A number of the diocese's 254 schools, ranging from pre-schools to a university and a seminary, were destroyed or severely damaged, including the Holy Trinity complex of primary, music and trade schools adjacent to the demolished diocesan Cathédrale Sainte Trinité (Holy Trinity Cathedral) in Port-au-Prince.

A portion of the St Vincent School for Handicapped Children, also in the Haitian capital, collapsed, killing between six and 10 students and staff. Many of the students are living at the camp while arrangements are being made for them to be housed elsewhere.

More than 100 of the diocese's churches have been damaged or destroyed, Duracin has said.

As many as 3,000 quake survivors, including many members of the diocese, have congregated on a rocky field next to College Ste. Pierre, a diocesan primary school destroyed by the quake. Duracin, who was left homeless by the quake, has led the effort to organise and maintain the camp, where conditions are described as grim.

Episcopal Relief and Development's efforts include coordinating shipments of medical supplies and food to affected rural Haitian communities and parishes, organising air drops to isolated rural areas and the provision of satellite phones and solar power chargers. The latter will enable coordination of efforts between dioceses and increase the organisation's ability to communicate with Duracin and his colleagues as they serve thousands of survivors both in Port au Prince and in other areas served by the Episcopal Church of Haiti.

The agency said on 21 January that its work is also helping to establish a response mechanism that can continue to operate efficiently as the recovery process gets underway in the coming weeks and months.

In the days just after the quake, Haitians in various states of health began fleeing into the Dominican Republic. In addition, because the nation was the closest place where the infrastructure is intact, it became an important relay point in the wave of assistance for Haiti.

Also on 21 January, the Haitian government and the United Nations said that 150 Dominican soldiers could join the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dominicans will join Peruvian troops who are guarding a humanitarian supply corridor from their country into Haiti.

Those reports came amid confusion following reports that Haitian President René Préval had earlier rejected an offer of 800 Dominican troops because of historic tensions between the two countries.

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