Earlier this year, I visited tent camps in Haiti where children had been asked to paint their "hopes for the future." Not surprisingly, almost every painting depicted a house.
Their colourful canvases drying on the rubble were a stark reminder that more than a year after the deadly earthquake, 680,000 Haitians still need a home. But they need so much more than that. Their country needs a new foundation.
World Vision has worked in Haiti for 30 years, offering emergency relief, community development, HIV education and support, health, water and sanitation programs. With such a long-term commitment to Haiti's children, I am hopeful that president-elect Michel Martelly will prioritize five key actions:
1) Adopt a master resettlement plan. Although the government of Haiti has tried to co-ordinate housing construction with the United Nations and non-government organizations, we still lack a master blueprint for government-led resettlement. A common plan is urgently needed to speed up the removal of rubble from neighbourhoods and solve land tenure and camp eviction issues.
World Vision and the Canadian International Development Agency have built more than 1,000 transitional shelters in Port-au-Prince. But faster timelines and more co-ordination are needed, especially as camps brace for another hurricane season.
2) Reform the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The Haitian government and civil-society groups should play stronger roles within the commission, which brings all stakeholders and billions of donor dollars to the table. The commission should also shift its focus to overseeing comprehensive plans for education, governance and health-care systems. Right now, it spends too much time approving individual projects and too little on big-picture reforms that Haiti desperately needs.
3) Promote participation, not dependence. Mr. Martelly's desire for greater self-sufficiency is commendable and we can all help Haiti achieve this goal. At the grassroots level, aid agencies can assist people to lead their own community development. Canada and other international donors must renew their commitment to Haiti and support capacity-building within the country's new government. Mr. Martelly's own call for decentralization should be viewed as a move critical to the country's future.
4) Deal with violence. Camps and border areas are not safe places. Sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation are too common. Haiti's women, children and youth need protection - the epidemic of violence cannot be ignored. Aid workers' firsthand observation and reports show over 60 per cent of women and children in camps fear sexual violence. While NGOs are working to promote camp security and educate people about their basic rights, it is ultimately the Haitian government's responsibility to provide protection, prosecution and legal justice.
5) Listen to the children. Children and youth represent half the population of Haiti. Even before the earthquake, Haiti had the highest child and maternal death rates in the Western Hemisphere and the lowest school enrolments. Children's voices must be heard and they need meaningful participation in their own country's reconstruction.
Change is coming to Haiti. These recommendations are offered in hopes that Haitians will be empowered to build a better country, a better home for their children. I still recall a young boy in the camp proudly holding up his painting and telling me it was actually a "home for all of Haiti." I share his vision for Haiti's future - that one day all Haitian children can live in safety with access to health care and education. I hope his new government does, too.
Dave Toycen is president and CEO of World Vision Canada.