Church Agency Aids Flood Victims

Executive Council urges U.S. help in rebuilding Haiti
July 1, 2004

Haitians and their neighbors in the Dominican Republic continue to contend with the aftermath of torrential rains and floods in early June in which 3,000 people were reported dead or missing.

Several areas remained inaccessible, except by helicopter or by foot, leaving thousands without access to food or water, according to relief agencies.

“Humanitarian agencies are still unable to reach tens of thousands of people in desperate need of supplies,” Oxfam America said more than two weeks after the floods. It called on the United Nations to urgently facilitate access to the affected areas.

“People are beginning to despair,” said Raphael Sindaye, Oxfam’s senior program coordinator in Haiti.

Episcopal Relief and Development sent its director of overseas grants, Mark Spina, to determine how to help most efficiently. Spina and Burton Joseph, program coordinator for Haiti, visited flood-affected towns in southeast Haiti along the border with the Dominican Republic.

“Flooding destroyed people’s only means of livelihood -- onion, shallot, coffee, bean and corn crops. … Livestock, like goats and pigs and mules, were drowned too,” Spina reported.

Bishop Zaché Duracin is concentrating relief efforts in this region because no other relief agencies are present there, he said.
ERD sent $10,000 in emergency aid each to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to help with immediate needs. In addition, an appeal begun by ERD to help with long-term development in Haiti after the political upheaval in February and March reached $180,000 by mid-June, according to Malaika Kamunawire, development and public relations director.

Rights of asylum seekers
In addressing the problems in Haiti, Executive Council at its June meeting in Burlington, Vt., unanimously called on the U.S. government to send immediate aid and to serve as a major donor nation in rebuilding Haiti’s infrastructure.

The resolution also focused on the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and Haitians living illegally in the United States. It urged the secretary of homeland security to extend “temporary protected status” to Haitians in the United States, ceasing all deportations during this time. It called on the Bush administration to institute a “fair and humane screening process in accordance with international law … to ensure that Haitians having bona fide asylum claims be able to have their claims properly assessed.”

Richard Parkins, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, calls the U.S. policy of intercepting Haitians on the high seas and forcing them to return, unconscionable. “If they flee, there should be a process whereby their plight will be honored and their asylum claims fairly adjudicated. That’s what we expect other nations to do. That’s what we’ve asked.”

The council’s resolution also asks the U.S. government to contribute to and endorse an international peacekeeping operation “that would remain as long as is necessary.” In addition, council asked that a delegation be sent to Haiti on a fact-finding mission if the diocese requests it.

To help with relief efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, contact the Caribbean Floods Fund at http://episcopalrelief.org, or call (800) 334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, c/o Caribbean Floods Fund, P.O. Box 12043, Newark, NJ 07101.