Haiti Must Not be Forgotten, says WCC Head

The head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has urged heads of government and faith communities to not forget Haiti, even though media attention on the country has relaxed.

"Do not forget the people of Haiti, even though most of the camera lenses have turned elsewhere. Our unity and solidarity with the people of Haiti are vital," the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit wrote in a letter to officials.

"It is imperative that we act as one while lending a hand to Haitians who are striving to shape their common future," he said. "For churches, it is essential to reflect, in times like these, what it means to be one in Christ, locally, regionally and globally."

"We are called to unity, to serve as churches who speak with a common voice for justice and who care for the life of our neighbour, and who take common action together with partners such as the ACT Alliance and others," he added.

Tveit and several other WCC delegates recently finished a three-day solidarity trip to Haiti where they met with church and political officials and visited some of the projects directed by the ACT Alliance, including the rebuilding of churches destroyed by the Jan. 12 quake.

"Without churches the progress is not long-term," the Rev. Nilton Giese, general secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches," said during the visit.

According to Tveit, there are "two tasks for the churches: One is to be able to say what needs to be changed and the other is to interpret the vision revealing how to make that change."

"What churches and the ACT Alliance can do together is to help make the voices of the people heard on different levels," he added.

Alongside long-term development, Tveit also stressed the "urgent need" of moving the country's displaced people into permanent housing, calling it a "matter of dignity, sanity, and safety, particularly during the hurricane season which has already started."

Forecasters have reported that Haiti faces ominous threats from this year's hurricane season, which could create a "secondary disaster" in the country - already the poorest in the Western hemisphere prior to the January earthquake, which killed some 200,000 people.

Last month, U.S. National Hurricane Center director Bill Read said that his "number one concern" for the hurricane season was the one million people in Haiti who are still living in temporary shelters.

"We have the potential for another catastrophe there," Read told Reuters.

Echoing Read's remarks was Jean-Claude Mukadi, World Vision's relief response manager in Haiti, who said, "While we continue to focus on the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, we must prepare ourselves for the possibility of another disaster as the hurricane season approaches."

"While we can't prevent disasters like earthquakes and floods, we must focus on preventing the effects of these disasters on those at risk in Haiti," he added.

Meanwhile, former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced a new $20 million fund to stimulate Haiti's recovery effort by loaning to the country's small to medium-sized businesses.

Clinton announced the plan on Tuesday alongside the fund's financiers – Canadian businessman Frank Guistra and Mexico's Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world.

"We hope to empower entrepreneurs with the tools to transform their aspirations, hard work, and good ideas into profitable businesses that create jobs and help fuel the growth of the Haitian economy," said Clinton, who is the U.N.'s special envoy to Haiti.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, meanwhile, has noted that the country's upcoming elections in November are a crucial component to bolstering the confidence of investors who will be financing Haiti's reconstruction.

"If we don't have transparent elections, we won't have investment, either," Bellerive told the Associated Press. "It's one deal."

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