Ever since a horrendous earthquake hit Haiti three years ago, an Israel-based relief organization known as ‘IsraAID’ has been working on the ground in Haiti in partnership with Tevel Betzedek in order to assist the population that lives there. Despite the passage of time, Haitians have not fully recovered from the trauma that they endured when an earthquake struck their country. In Haiti, over 300,000 Haitians are still living in tent cities instead of homes. While this still is an improvement, since 1.5 million people were left homeless following the earthquake, the fact that so many Haitians still lack a place to live demonstrates that Haiti is still very much in need of international assistance and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to help these natural disaster victims. IsraAID is at the forefront of trying to improve the lives of average Haitians.
One of the programs that IsraAID and Tevel Betzedek operates is a medical clinic in Leoganne. Through this medical clinic, within the last quarter of year, Israel has treated 3,148 Haitian patients. These health services that Israel provides Haitians are critical, especially in a country where the health care system is in shatters. Indeed, out of all of the countries in the western hemisphere, Haiti has the lowest life expectancy rate and the highest rate of HIV infections. Haiti also has a high infant maternal mortality rate, has Haitian citizens who possess tuberculosis in epidemic proportions, and diseases such as malaria and cholera remains an issue in Haiti as well. Yet even worse, despite these horrible health problems Haitians face, accessibility to vaccines for children is terribly lacking.
Another very important program that IsraAID and Tevel Betzedek have been offering is agricultural assistance to Haiti, whose agricultural industry suffered significant damage following the earthquake and other subsequent events such as Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed 70 percent of Southern Haiti’s crops. As part of this program, IsraAID and Tevel Betzedek have trained over 100 Haitian farmers who live in La Colline Deslandes on how they could improve their agricultural productivity. The project was so successful that Haiti’s president visited the site and has requested that IsraAID and Tevel Betzedek duplicate their program in other parts of Haiti. IsraAID and Tevel Betzedek are currently negotiating with the Haitian government on how they can expand their agricultural program.
In addition, IsraAID, in a joint project with the International Organization of Migration, a UN agency, has opened the Leap Center, which provides one of Leagone’s only libraries, as well as classrooms. These classrooms are used in the mourning to provide children that lack access to public schools an education; 200 children attend these schools every day. In the afternoon, the Leap Center offers professional courses in computer science, accounting, electrical engineering, business, and even a culinary school for disadvantaged women. All of these skills that Israel is proving to Haitians are very important in a country where 70 percent of the population is unemployed.
IsraAID is an Israeli humanitarian organization that has assisted countries struck by natural disasters worldwide. IsraAID assisted the United States following Hurricane Sandy and has also operated in Japan as well as South Sudan. Their goal is to utilize Israel’s experience in dealing with emergency situations in order to help out other countries in need. However, it is important to note that IsraAID does not limit their aid to emergency assistance immediately following a natural disaster. They also engage in programs that eventually should help countries that experience such catastrophes to one day be able to stand on their own two feet. As Rambam stated, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day: teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
By Rachel Avraham
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