Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don’t forget Haiti, says priest

Don’t forget Haiti, says priestA Jesuit priest has pleaded with people in the UK to remember the plight of Haitians three years after a powerful earthquake devastated much of the country.

The three-year anniversary was marked on Saturday but Father Francois Kawas says many thousands of people are still living in camps.

Father Kawas, founder of The Centre for Research, Reflection, Training and Social Action, was in the UK last week to meet representatives of the UK Government and partner aid agencies Christian Aid, Progressio and CAFOD.

His visit was made to “help people in the UK not to forget Haiti”, he says.

“Haiti still needs the solidarity of your people. It’s very important for us.”

Despite billions of dollars in donations to help get Haiti back on its feet, Father Kawas laments what he sees as the poor management and coordination of funds, and says that much of the money is not going into the hands of Haitians, but rather international agencies and workers.

However, he acknowledged that the Haitian government “does not have good mechanisms of control” for the funds it has received.

He appealed to the UK Government to support Haiti in using the funds effectively, and create a national plan for the country’s development into the future.

Whilst humanitarian aid is still important, Father Kawas said the need now was long-term reconstruction.

In addition to rebuilding infrastructure, Father Kawas said civic organisations, democracy and the free media need to be strengthened. He also believes that the people of Haiti need to change their mentality and “not wait for help” to change the country but “realise their own possibilities”.

The reconstruction efforts were further hampered by Hurricane Sandy, which killed over a hundred people in Haiti, but Father Kawas believes that with better coordination among the international aid agencies and continued support from the countries where they are based, real progress can be made.

“Most NGOs have left the country so there are fewer working in Haiti now,” he said.
“That means in many countries, they forgot Haiti and now is not the time to forget Haiti because we are beginning the most important work – the long-term reconstruction.”

He continued: “I want that people in the UK – individuals and organisations – impress upon the UK Government to help Haiti to use well the money it has received.

“I have hope in my heart that the future will be better but it is not easy.”

No comments: