Ask an aid worker about Haiti

There are few disaster response efforts that have received the level of public scrutiny that has been focused on the international response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As a result of the earthquake relief response in Haiti, it's likely that most Americans have formed their own opinions about humanitarian aid. Questions like these and their answers (or lack of answers) influence our understanding and opinion of aid work:

Did my donation really help? Why hasn't anything been accomplished there? I watched one news channel that looks like everything is progressing quite well, and another that shows everything is in complete disarray. What's the truth? What's really happening? Two years seems like enough time to make some progress. Is the aid effort failing? Are dollars being wasted? Or is everything much better off than the news is telling us?

Most of us don't get to meet real humanitarian workers in the course of our everyday lives, so we don't have the opportunity to ask questions like this to front-line professionals. Therefore, consider this post your "open mic" chance.

Continuing with our expert interview series, in which you have the opportunity to ask your questions to aid professionals, I'd like to introduce you to Jeff Wright and Elizabeth (Liz) Ranade-Janis, aid workers on World Vision's humanitarian and emergency affairs team.

Jeff and Liz were both deployed to Haiti following the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010 -- two years ago next week -- to work alongside World Vision field staff to help implement the initial stages of our relief programs, including shelter, economic recovery, child protection, healthcare, cholera prevention, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Liz is a program officer who has spent a majority of the past two years managing the World Vision U.S. Haiti earthquake response. "There is no 'normal' with an earthquake response [like Haiti]," she told me, noting that long hours, complex issues, and intense media coverage adds to the existing pressure of having thousands of lives at stake. Even two years later, the highly complex response environment of Haiti is reflected in Liz's job every day.

Jeff is the humanitarian and emergency affairs operations director for World Vision U.S., managing a team of professional aid workers covering international disasters and relief programs for the past five years. Jeff's perspective is shaped by 20 years of experience in international relief and development. He's been involved on the ground in many of the major relief responses of recent memory, including Hurricane Mitch in 1998, post-war Angola in the early 2000s, the Asian tsunamis of 2004, and, most recently, the Haiti earthquake.

I asked Jeff and Liz in a recent conversation what the greatest misconception is about post-quake Haiti relief efforts. Their response:

Probably the biggest misconception is that aid work in Haiti has either failed or succeeded. Six months after the earthquake, then one year later, then a year-and-a-half later, people were asking why things were still so bad and why it was taking so long to rebuild. Haiti’s rebuilding process is a huge work in progress, and the reality is that the sheer magnitude of the quake itself and the pre-existing conditions of poverty created a melting pot of complexity for Haiti's aid response.

So, now it's your turn. Submit your questions to Jeff and Liz by leaving them in the comments section. Remember, the point is to ask the sort of questions that will help us better understand humanitarian aid work and the relief efforts in Haiti. On Monday afternoon, we’ll pick the top eight or nine questions and give them to Jeff and Liz to answer firsthand. (And, if you particularly like someone else’s question, leave a reply saying so to help us get a sense of what questions are of most interest to you.) Then, look for their answers and responses next Thursday, January 12, the two-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake.

Read related post Haiti enters third year of quake recovery.


    Hello! I'm a World Vision staff, but haven't seen our work in the field. I'm wondering how different organizations work together in Haiti. How do we collaborate? Who decides who works where? Thanks!

    God bless you for all the work you do. I was wondering how the rubble removal efforts are coming? I remember reading early on that this was a huge problem but haven't heard anything lately.
    Thank you-
    Cindy Munley, NJ

    what are the conditions there? have they improved or got worse? what steps are being taken to help the country get back on its feet?

    I was wondering how much of the rebuilding effort is being performed by the Hatian people, or is it all from outside help from organizations like WV? Are any of the outside aid orgs able to provide jobs or training to locals?

    First, let me thank Jeff and Liz for their ongoing dedication to this effort. I've had the privilege of serving in Haiti for a week in each of the last two years, and that leads to my question:

    Does the presence of temporary workers in Haiti help or hinder the overall aid effort?

    Although I've read pros and cons to this, I believe that dedicating a week each year to helping out the Haitians (2010 in Mirebalais and Les Cayes in 2011) is a good thing. It's given me a chance to see the country up close and to interact and build relationships with the people.

    However, I do believe that the biggest hurdle still remains: how to get the Haitian people to be more self-sufficient? There are a variety of factors that hinder that objective and I was excited to meet a gentleman in Les Cayes who was living there and building an academy to teach agriculture, electrical, mechanical, etc.

    Once again, thank you for all you do!

    My main concern for Haiti is the state of Haitian leadership, motivation and enterprise. Are there concerned and able leaders amongst the people themselves or are almost all recovery efforts and support coming from the outside? I have always felt that Haiti's main problem is a vacuum in leadership with integrity. Is this true?

    I went to Haiti this past summer, and I am wondering what other organizations are good ones to go over with? I can only go for about two weeks or maybe three weeks at a time, but I'd like to go again and do something a bit different.

    Also, do you know anything about when the country will be looking at the new adoption laws? There are too many children there in orphanages and on the street, and that is something that needs to change. Making it easier for international adoptions (at least until Haiti gets on its feet, if that ever occurs) would go a long way in changing lives of children in Haiti.

    Thanks for this insight. Since I will be returning to Haiti in a few weeks with a health care team, ' wondering if there would be any comments on the impact of such missions and the conditions at and around Leogane'. Is St Croix hospital there in operating order?

    Thanks again, I will get back for responses i-12-12.....TRS

    ' Like comment #1. Also, wondering about water safety/purification issues there. Could there be an impact benefit to this with a small/portable water purification unit?

    Is there any effort to re-use the rubble? Test and use sturdy pieces as bricks. re-use iron rods as rebar? re-use corrigated tin and pipes, etc.

    I don't understand why it is so expensive for international adoptions. I have read articles stating there are so many orphans that are dying of treatable illnesses, that the Haitian government cannot support. What is keeping the Haitian government and the US State Department from getting together, streamling the process, and making it affordable for good US families to adopt children from Haiti. There are plenty of good homes in the US where those children will have a better life and opportunities, but the average American family cannot afford to pay 25,000 dollars for an international adoption. Thanks in advance for your response.

    I have a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter (adopted from Haiti) on a missions trip to Haiti. This is my daughter-in-laws 8th missions trip to Haiti. She has 17 people with her from our church and community. She and my son adopted a total of three children from Haiti. There is so much to do, yet; and the funds that were promised by the US government, other countries and prominent individuals has not made its way to help these people. Thanks for ALL you do for the Lord, this country, these people! Jeri

    May I ask how much it cost during the adoption process?

    Hello all I'm Haitian -American and I cant say enough how amazing you guys truly are but I'm wondering do you guys see the light at the end of the tunnel or does it look hopeless? Also I'm wondering do you guys get to ever get to relax and when you do, do you visit areas outside of PAP that are still intact and show a more beautiful different side,then the stereotypical and earthquake damaged Haiti?

    Hello! Thank you for all the work you do. I was wondering what some of the biggest problems that Haiti faces today and what can be done to address them?

    What are ways you have made your immediate relief aid projects sustainable so that they will continue to help Haiti in the future?

    I applaud all your efforts. We were blessed to be able to spend a week in Haiti in November of 2011 and do a little bit of construction, 3 days of dental clinic work and 2 days at an orphanage. It was an amazing trip and after being there we all came to realize that GOD is right in the middle of Haiti loving His people and loving on those who come to help. We are heading back in June and I can't wait:)

    I have visited and seen that housing is a huge issue in Port-au-Prince and World Vision is working to construct homes. My question lies with the thousands of people, including some of my friends, that remain in the tent cities. They are not treated at human beings by the government, have unfit and unsanitary conditions and lack the money to purchase water and food for their families. My heart hurts terribly! What is their future as the rains tear through their make-shift tents? What can I do other than be their friend in prayer?

    @ Jessy, the two trips I've taken have been to Mirebalais and Les (Aux) Cayes. I've only been in PAP 'in transit' so to speak. In Mirebalais I was able to spend some time playing soccer with the kids - which is always fun. I find having a soccer ball to the best way to connect with almost anyone! In Cayes, we drive around the last day and toured the countryside, going to the beach a little farther west and seeing a completely different side of the country. Very beautiful.

    I understand that one of the complex issues hampering long-range development in Haïti is the lack of food securiity, and the ongoing economic conundrum that it's almost always cheaper to import the main staple food (rice) from places like, say, Stuttgart, AR [USA] or Brazil than to produce it domestically...How significant an impediment to reconstruction and long range efforts to avert vulnerability to natural disaster is this, in your opinion?

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