Reflections on a visit to Haiti

Julie M. Jacobsen Takahashi in Haiti. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Julie M. Jacobsen Takahashi in Haiti. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Earlier this month a team from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs traveled to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince to assess how Norway’s USD 100 pledge of support for Haiti could be put to good use. First Secretary Julie M. Jacobsen Takahashi, from the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, went with them. This is her personal account of the visit.

As you fly into Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince you notice that the ground is dotted with blue squares. Coming from New York I associate such blue squares with suburban swimming pools. But these blue squares are the hundreds of thousands of tents and tarpaulins that house those left homeless and displaced after the January 12 earthquake.

Our mission was to get a firsthand account of the situation on the ground and to make concrete plans for the more than USD 100 million Norway has pledged in support for Haiti over the next two years. In the aftermath of the quake, Norway has scaled up its engagement with Haiti, and is a member both of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission and the board of the new Haiti Reconstruction Fund. A large part of Norwegian assistance to reconstruction and development will be channeled through this multi-donor fund.

It is one thing to discuss the plight of internally displaced people (IDPs) at the UN headquarters in New York, and quite another to be here, in Haiti. The grim reality of life after the quake becomes tangible as I catch small glimpses of individuals struggling to survive with dignity in an extraordinarily challenging situation. Still, the urgency of the situation is far from lost in New York.

Almost 6 months after the earthquake, I found reason to hope and to be anxious about what lies ahead for the Haitian people who find themselves in such a precarious situation – yet again. I was impressed by the determination with which Haitians and members of the international community worked to improve the situation. The visit to a UNICEF sponsored “Child Friendly Spaces-”project at an IDP camp was uplifting; a group of smiling children played under the watchful eye of some young men living in the same site. But the enormity of the tasks ahead, and the challenge of securing a strategic, coordinated approach in the on-going effort, present huge challenges. There is no time to lean back now. The job is far from done.

Source: Norway Mission to the UN

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