A British Baptist minister spent the night in a tent outside his church to remind people of the hundreds of thousands who are still living in makeshift tents in Haiti.
Rev. Paul Hill of East Sheen Baptist Church, London, aimed to highlight the plight of not just those who were made homeless as a result of the January earthquake last year, but also residents of Gonaives, a city in northern Haiti, who were uprooted in the hurricane disaster of 2008.
Up to 1,000 people were killed in Gonaives as a result of Hurricane Hanna.
Hill, whose son, Carwyn, is the chief executive of the Haiti Hospital Appeal charity, one of the first agencies to hand out aid in Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the devastation last year, said what linked the two disasters was a failure of the international community to deliver on the aid it promised.
“I visited Gonaives in the wake of the hurricane disasters. Thousands were made homeless and many people in Gonaives are still having to live in makeshift tents,” Hill said.
“‘The millions of pounds worth of aid that was promised by the international community then just didn’t appear. Sadly, much the same has happened following the earthquake in January 2010.”
Hill said the fact that 1.3 million people are still homeless as a result of the two disasters lay behind his decision to sleep in the tent outside his church on a wintry January night.
“It was to simply remind people of the plight of those less fortunate, especially those in Haiti, who have not just been let down, but apparently betrayed.”
Hill’s comments coincided with a highly critical Oxfam report into the recovery efforts a year after the earthquake.
The report criticized donor countries and aid agencies for failing to coordinate between themselves and with the government and called for the Haitian government to take on responsibility for reconstruction.
While many lives were saved following the quake, the report said the long-term recovery has “barely begun.”
Its author, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam’s country director in Haiti, said: “This has been a year of indecision and it has put Haiti’s recovery on hold.
“Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities and have not effectively coordinated amongst themselves or worked with the Haitian government.”
Elsewhere, a report compiled by several Christian development agencies – Tearfund, Christian Aid, Cafod and Progressio – also called on both the international community and the Haitian government to ensure the opportunity to build a new and more just Haitian society was not squandered.
Among its recommendations were for donors to honor pledges made for international funding, to give urgent priority to the clearance of rubble in Port-au-Prince and to recognize that reconstruction must be Haiti-led.
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.