Since the earthquake which hit Haiti on 12 January 2010, far too little has been done to improve the living conditions of the population and emergency relief is simply not enough, say SOS Children: "The people of Haiti have needs that go far beyond emergency aid" says Andrew Cates, CEO of SOS Children, “in spite of intensive efforts on the part of countless international and local NGOs, governments, the Haitian authorities, and multilateral organisations, a systematic reconstruction process which provides economic and social security for the people of Haiti is yet to begin.”
SOS Children's Villages is one of the only international NGOs with permanent residence in Haiti, registered with the authorities since 1979, and who are committed to helping with long-term reconstruction. Cates urges other NGOs to do the same: “Faced with massive societal breakdown in Haiti, NGOs need to be more thoughtful and focus beyond fire-fighting with the next meal or short term give-aways. We should work on how we are going to change lives sustainably. Longer-term projects are needed to play a major role in rebuilding the broken society in Haiti, focussing on achieving lifelong change.”
SOS staff have witnessed in the camp cities the appalling risks faced by children who are without parental care. Violence, sexual exploitation and abuse are on the increase and an estimated 1.2 million children were victims of psychological and physical violence even before the earthquake. Cates says: “there is a lot of work to do by both NGOs and the authorities to make these camps safer.”
As well as providing acute emergency provision for the past year, SOS Children have designed a 12-year reconstruction programme which focuses on medical and community services, child protection and housing. Education also plays a major role - SOS plans to build at least ten state schools over the next years.