Leading Jewish Organization Applauds Passage of Bill to Assess Progress in Haiti

Urges U.S. to continue and advance its support of Haiti’s ongoing reconstruction efforts

WASHINGTON, DC — American Jewish World Service (AJWS), which provides direct financial support to grassroots organizations in Haiti, applauds Congress for passing the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, which will ensure transparency in how U.S. funds are allocated to assist ongoing efforts to recover from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. AJWS is the leading Jewish international human rights and development organization, and it has made more than $5 million in grants in Haiti since 2010.

“In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, our government laudably committed a significant amount of aid to help Haiti rebuild, but a lack of transparency made it difficult to understand how U.S. government funds were being used and if recovery efforts were making progress and were being measured,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “As an organization that makes grants in Haiti, we believe this legislation embodies a new commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance. The bill will help establish clear and transparent goals for future U.S. involvement in Haiti and will ensure that U.S. dollars are spent in responsible ways that create long-term, positive change in Haiti. Passing this bill is a great step in the right direction for long-term recovery, and we urge the U.S. government to continue and strengthen its support of reconstruction efforts in Haiti,” said Messinger.

Passed in the Senate on July 10, 2014, this legislation will allow the U.S. Congress to oversee U.S. assistance in Haiti by providing lawmakers, the U.S. public and Haitians with key details on how U.S. reconstruction funds are being spent. The bill will boost efforts to create long-term, positive changes in Haiti and will ensure transparency and accountability for U.S. aid to Haiti’s recovery. The bill passed the House today and will now head to the President for his signature.

Haitians are still suffering from the incalculable damage caused by the earthquake that struck Haiti four and half years ago. Tragically, there are still more than a hundred thousand Haitians living in tent camps, with little or no access to potable water or basic health services, and Haiti is facing an inability to find sustainable housing solutions for those displaced. It is also facing impending food and health crises.

AJWS applauds members of Congress for enacting strong bi-partisan legislation on Haiti, and underscores the pioneering role of Representative Barbara Lee [D-CA], who introduced the first iteration of this bill in the House and who worked tirelessly for its passage over two Congresses. AJWS also acknowledges the tremendous efforts of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, including chair Rep. Ed Royce [R-CA] and members Reps. Eliot Engel [D-NY] and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL], for working together in a bi-partisan manner. Finally, AJWS commends Senator Bill Nelson [D-FL] for introducing this bill in the Senate; Sen. Bob Menendez [D-NJ] and Bob Corker [R-TN], for championing this important piece of bipartisan legislation; and Sen. Marco Rubio [R-FL] for his consistent support in committee.

AJWS’s Direct Support for Haiti
In the six months after the earthquake, AJWS raised $6.4 million from more than 28,000 donors to support recovery in Haiti—$6.1 million of which has been disbursed to date. These funds have supported projects that strengthen infrastructure, empower marginalized communities, develop Haitian leadership and build the capacity of grassroots organizations. AJWS’s grants also supported rapid response efforts to emergencies like the cholera epidemic, by bolstering organizations with long-standing ties and experience in their communities. Specifically, AJWS supported:

  • Defenders of the Oppressed (Défenseurs des Opprimées, DOP) and Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (Fos Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay, FRAKKA), which worked in the internally displaced persons camps to bring claims against forced evictions, and to support camp residents in organizing and advocating for their rights. DOP and FRAKKA continue to organize displaced people, document violations and advocate for the rights of those living in displacement camps.
  • Fanm Deside (Women Decide), which organized meetings in the displacement camps to provide psychological support to earthquake survivors. A year after the earthquake, Fanm Deside commenced construction of the Centre Magalie pour la vie (Magalie Center for Life), a safehouse for women in Jacmel, one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake. The first of its kind in the southeast area of Haiti and one of only a few safe houses in the whole country, the facility provides temporary shelter to 20 women and children.
  • Partnership for Local Development (PDL), which helped rural communities set up a cash-for-work program whereby families displaced by the earthquake were paid to learn and implement new agricultural, ecological and disaster risk-reduction techniques for farming in the communities that received more than 600,000 people displaced by the earthquake.
  • Fondation SEROvie, which was the only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization in Haiti in 2010. Its office was destroyed and 14 members and staff were killed during the earthquake. AJWS provided initial funds for SEROvie to rebuild its office and to support LGBT people who lost their homes during the earthquake. SEROvie continues to provide employment training and critical health services to LGBT people in the displacement camps through its clinic.

U.S. Advocacy
In addition to working for the passage of the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, AJWS’s advocacy over the past four and a half years has contributed to increased government funding for relief and reconstruction in Haiti, and connected Haitian organizations with U.S. and international humanitarian and government decision-makers. AJWS has promoted practices that will advance Haiti’s development in ways that are focused on benefiting the most marginalized members of society. AJWS is currently working with other Haiti advocacy organizations to:

  • Encourage funders to spend more of their resources in Haiti to create jobs, build Haitian capacity and spur other Haitian employment opportunities
  • Urge the United Nations to take responsibility for the outbreak of cholera, ensure that the cholera elimination plan is fully funded, and provide a just solution for the over 8,500 Haitians who have already died from the epidemic
  • Ensure that the international community and Haitian government protect the rights of Haitian workers by complying with minimum wage laws and safeguarding advocates for human rights, many of whom have been subject to violence and intimidation.

For More Information

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.