I am both deeply saddened and shaken by the powerful earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday afternoon. Three million people — about a third of Haiti’s population — have been affected by the quake. Hundreds of thousands of people are without food, water and other basic needs, and casualties have been estimated in the tens of thousands. It’s very possible that they will exceed this number.
Haiti is the most marginalized country in the Western Hemisphere, plagued with crushing levels of poverty and disease, which makes this natural disaster all the more devastating. Haiti is also a country that is very dear to my heart; it’s a country in which I’ve spent a great deal of time. I was last in Haiti in September 2009 and wrote about my experience on From the Ground. As always, I was moved by the richness of its unique culture, the warmth and relational energy of the local Haitian community and the unyielding efforts to work for social justice in a country that has known so much instability.
For over a decade, AJWS has been supporting grassroots organizations in Haiti working to promote sustainable development, human rights, women’s empowerment and reproductive health. Our Haitian grassroots partners, Lambi Fund and KONPAY, have worked tirelessly in Haiti to promote sustainable solutions to hunger, environmental degradation and social injustice.
In response to the current crisis, our immediate priority is to assess the needs of our grantees and provide emergency funding to reach the poorest and most remote populations that have been adversely affected.
AJWS has set up a Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund and I am touched by the outpouring of support we have received in less than 48 hours. Our phones have not stopped ringing.
Based on initial reports of widespread devastation and a high number of casualties, AJWS anticipates that the immediate and long-term needs in Haiti will be profound. We are coordinating with our field staff and project partners in Haiti about how to respond most effectively.
Donations to our Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund can be made at www.ajws.org/haitiearthquake
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the earthquake’s victims.