This morning, Nicole Balliette, Deputy Director of the Haiti Earthquake Emergency Response effort, will testified before Congress about the emergency response effort.
Below is her testimony to the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, part of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Thank you Chairman Engel (NY) and Ranking Member Mack (FL) for calling this important hearing and giving Catholic Relief Services an opportunity to testify. My name is Nicole Balliette and I am the CRS Deputy Director for the Haiti Earthquake Response. With the committee’s permission, I would like to enter my full written testimony for the record and I will summarize it orally. At this time, I would like to thank the members of this committee for the passage of the Haiti Economic Lift Program Act, the Haiti Debt Relief and Earthquake Recovery Act, and for swift passage of the Haiti supplemental. CRS would also like to thank Mr. Conyers (MI) for introducing the HEAR Act.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the generous assistance provided by the U.S. government to CRS and other actors in Haiti, including the positive service of U.S. military personnel, who in the early days of the response provided the security necessary to allow for life-saving humanitarian interventions.
I know this Committee and the world are concerned about Haiti and the recovery process. CRS shares those concerns, but good things are being done and we believe that we can overcome the immense challenges we face.
But we want to be clear, together we are not moving fast enough toward that goal—we cannot consider it “fast enough” when people are without shelter, security and livelihoods.
Background: Pre-Earthquake, Haiti already had the highest poverty levels in the Western Hemisphere. A comparison with the recent earthquake in Chile illustrates how underlying factors, more than the earthquake itself, caused the devastation with which the people of Haiti are currently struggling.
We have already heard from my colleagues on the panel about the situation in Haiti prior to the earthquake, as well as the extent of the devastation with which the people of Haiti are currently struggling.
CRS has been working together with the people of Haiti for over 55 years, providing immediate relief when needed, and helping the people of Haiti learn the skills and access the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
Positive aspects of CRS’ earthquake response in Haiti
I would like to talk about some of the highlights of CRS’ response to the earthquake. Within hours, our Haitian and international staff began responding. Our generous donors, including private individuals and the US government, began almost immediately to contribute what has become an unprecedented amount. CRS has to date spent over $30 million and, together with our partners, has made major strides in meeting desperate needs, including providing food, water and sanitation, shelter materials, health care and protection services to hundreds of thousands of people.
- Supported hundreds of thousands of people with food (nearly 900,000 people, including ongoing distributions to more than 100,000 children in 370 school, orphanages and child-care centers in Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes), water and sanitation (600 latrines, hand-washing and bathing stations; 375,000 gallons water/month), shelter materials (to over 114,000 people), activities to help protect vulnerable people (5 child friendly spaces; family tracing and reunification; in the northeast border area, work with partners on a sexual and gender-based violence referral network and a safe house for survivors) and health care (including over 960 emergency operations and 62,000 outpatient consultations).
- Expanded our program in Haiti, including increasing from around 300 staff to more than 500 staff (of which 95 percent are Haitian, all of whom were affected in some way by the earthquake).
Constraints and Recommendations
Although we, and others, have accomplished a lot, I would like to talk a bit about the main constraints we face, and our recommendations.
- The government of Haiti must play the leadership role in the country’s recovery, but the success of the process will depend in large part on the actions of a robust civil society. We all must encourage and facilitate strong and effective leadership by Haitians, and provide them with the support they need.
- Insecurity in certain parts of Port-au-Prince, and especially in the settlements, is a huge constraint on the ability of people to function normally, as well as on the ability of actors like CRS to provide services. If the most vulnerable members of Haitian society (especially women, children, the elderly and the disabled) are to participate in the recovery, they need to be both protected from trafficking, sexual- and gender-based violence and all other forms of abuse and exploitation. Only a few years ago improved security in Haiti was a great success story—could this not be replicated in a way that will allow vulnerable people to protect themselves and their families, and at the same time allow humanitarian actors to provide the services those people need?
- The lack of an overall resettlement strategy seriously constrains the work of all the actors in Haiti. Current efforts seem to be ad hoc. The Haitian government must develop a holistic resettlement strategy that we can all use to guide our efforts.
- Linked to this, a specific and high-priority problem is the lack of places to install transitional shelters. Space for shelters is an urgent need that requires the highest possible prioritization. Two of the primary solutions to this problem are:
- Remove the rubble and debris more quickly
- Allocate and secure land so that transitional shelters and other services can be provided for those people who are unable to move to home sites.
The Haiti earthquake response is large-scale and complex. But we can’t let the complexity prevent us from achieving immediate results, while we also lay the groundwork for long-term development. We need to strike a balance. And we need to act in solidarity with the Haitian people to help ensure not only that the right things are done, but that they are done in the right way. CRS is committed to this. The solution requires the leadership of the government of Haiti, acting in partnership with civil society, including key actors like the Church in Haiti, and the support and assistance of international actors, including the U.S. government.
There is trauma and devastation in Haiti, there is no doubt about that, but there is also hope.
I would like to share with you a story that gives me hope. Within hours of the quake, our team in Les Cayes, in the Southern Peninsula, got together, they loaded trucks with food and non-food items, and they hit the road—they were among the first responders in Port au Prince, worried about their own families but also their friends and colleagues, and all the other victims of the disaster. And we are not the only ones with this story. When I was last in Haiti, in June, I co-facilitated a workshop where I heard similar stories about the staff of our partner, Caritas Haiti, and of the government of Haiti.
When the need is great and the actions to take are clear, people will find a way. This stage of the recovery process is perhaps more confusing—so much needs to be done and there are many different ways to do it. But with leadership and direction to guide all of our efforts, we can find a way.
We are grateful for your efforts, and those of other members of the US Government, to do what you can to support and assist the people of Haiti.
2 Responses to “CRS Testifies in Congress about Haiti Response”
Leave a Comment
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.