Christian Relief Group Says Shelter is Greatest Need, Challenge in Haiti

Six months after Haiti's devastating earthquake, one of the largest Christian humanitarian organizations in the world says much has been done to help the people of the Caribbean country.

The road to lasting recovery, however, will take many years.

"Our relief efforts continue at full pace, providing clean water, education for children, temporary shelter, job training and more. However, the long-term needs of Haiti remain daunting," reported Ton van Zutphen, the response director for World Vision.

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"Our priority now is getting transitional shelters up and doing all we can prepare for hurricane season."

As aid groups in Haiti transition from relief to recovery efforts, one of the most pressing and complex challenges now facing aid workers is reportedly providing sturdy, safe shelter to survivors.

With the hurricane season already underway, better shelter is also one of the most urgent needs for families.

For the past few months, World Vision has been working with the government of Haiti and other international organizations on a contingency plan to prepare Haiti for the hurricane season.

"Strong coordination and clear direction from the national government are paramount to accomplish the many tasks at hand here in Haiti," remarked van Zutphen.

After distributing more than 82,000 tarps and tents in the early months of the response, World Vision is currently working to jumpstart transitional shelter projects while continuing to explore new sites, suggest options to repair houses, and mediate in camps to prevent evictions.

Multiple challenges, however, have reportedly slowed the process of moving displaced people from emergency shelters to sturdier transitional shelters, including issues around land rights, rubble removal, and determining the most appropriate, durable transitional shelter design for families in Haiti.

"Aid groups have never had to build so many transitional shelters of this durability so quickly," reported van Zutphen.

"And while we're grateful for the generous donations that are making our life-saving work possible, the reality is it will take more than money to move Haiti to the next stage," he added.

Alex Wilson, deputy regional director for Lutheran World Relief in Latin America, similarly reported on the challenges in Haiti, particularly in underserved rural populations.

"It's a tenuous situation," he said. And the situation in Port-au-Prince, he added, remains "critical."

"This was a devastating crisis," Wilson reported. "Recovery will take a long time."

LWR, taking a long-term approach to rehabilitation and recovery, plans to work with earthquake-affected communities for five years.

In the United States, the organization is also working to ensure that policy-makers hear the voices and understand the needs of Haitian civil society.

LWR has mobilized its supporters to advocate to the U.S. government for cancellation of Haiti's debt, and for emergency funding to support reconstruction programs.

Also working for the people of Haiti are Christian relief groups Samaritan's Purse, The Salvation Army, Catholic Relief Services, and Tearfund, among others.

This past Monday marked the six-month commemoration of the Jan. 12 quake, which destroyed most of Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities and killed a government-estimated 230,000 to 300,000 people.

At least 1.3 million were made homeless as a result of the quake.

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