A METHODIST minister who survived the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 is touring England to mark the second anniversary of the disaster, and to highlight the need for a continuing commitment to rebuilding programmes.
The Revd James Gulley was trapped by rubble in the earthquake, and survived for 55 hours with no food or water until his rescue. The experience led to his working full-time for the United Methodist Committee on Relief in Haiti. Speaking in London during the first phase of his tour, he warned that there was a danger that interest in the country could fade.
“There is a need for those of us who are there to continue to raise awareness,” he said. “The people of Haiti have been neglected so long, so this is something that needs to have a long-term commitment from us.”
He said that estimates put rebuilding costs at $14 billion.
“The housing challenge is going to be there for a long time,” he said. “This is not an open tract of land. A lot of the rebuilding has to take place right where housing fell.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief is currently rebuilding 40 homes for families.
Aid agencies reported this week that substantial progress has been made in Haiti during the past two years. The international Christian charity Habitat for Humanity reports that only a third of the original 1.5 million people who sheltered in camps remain, and half of the debris has been cleared. Significant challenges, however, remain in a country that was already one of the world’s poorest before the disaster.
“In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, our aim was to get as many people as possible into temporary shelter, but now we need to help families rebuild earthquake-resistant, permanent homes,” the national director of Habitat for Humanity, Ian Walkden, said. The charity cites land tenure as the greatest obstacle to construction. Many deaths during the earthquake have not been formally documented, making claims on land by families complicated.
Christian Aid’s country manager in Haiti, Prospery Raymond, called on foreign governments to work in partnership with Haiti’s leadership.
“Already much of the emergency relief money has been spent. . . On the other hand, less than half of the money donated by foreign governments for long-term reconstruction has been released,” she said.