Advocacy, Catholics Confront Global Poverty, Haiti

CRS Testifies in Congress about Haiti Response

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.

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 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.

Thank you.

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2 Responses to “CRS Testifies in Congress about Haiti Response”

  1. Edele Desert Says:

    Thank you very much for continuing to help the people of my country, Haiti. I am a former employee of CRS/HT who migrated to the US in 2004 because of the unbearable insecurity in Haiti. Now the earthquake…!!!
    Keep up the good work.

    Edele Desert

  2. Barbara Mierzwa Says:

    CRS – like many agencies – has been working with Haitians for decades. Since these many years of aid have not raised Haitians from poverty, it is time for new approaches to increase their self-sufficiency, well-being and dignity. Aside from crisis services, long-term aid seems to have fostered unhealthy dependency and misery for the majority of Haitians.

    I urge CRS to work with Haitians for long-term economic development, i.e., jobs, better health and education for the majority.

    The rebuilding of Haiti after the devestation of the earthquake is a great time for a change in direction.

    Thank you.

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