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Haiti After Hurricane Matthew

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    UM and INURED Assess Next Steps in Haiti with Local Leadership from Most Affected Areas
    Special to UM News

    From left are Louis Herns Marcelin, Mayor Georges Simon, Toni Cela, and Karl Jean-Louis.

    From left are Louis Herns Marcelin, Mayor Georges Simon, Toni Cela, and Karl Jean-Louis.

    CORAL GABLES. Fla. (April 27, 2017)–Officials from Haiti, including a representative from the president’s office and a mayor from one of the regions devastated by Hurricane Matthew, attended a Town Hall at the University of Miami last Thursday to discuss the findings of a three-month study of community assets and resources available for recovery and reconstruction.

    Conducted by Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor of anthropology and chancellor of Haiti’s Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), and Toni Cela, postdoctoral fellow at UM and coordinator of INURED, the study aimed to determine the impact of the disaster on affected communities, assess their perceived needs, and identify and map local resources and assets that are critical for recovery and reconstruction.

    Co-funded by the Center for Haitian Studies, Project Medishare, and INURED, the study was unveiled at the town hall attended by Isnel Pierreval, from the Haitian president’s office; Gandy Thomas, the consul general of Haiti in Miami; Georges Simon, the mayor of Anse d’Hainault; and INURED Vice Chair Dr. Guy Noel. The meeting was co-sponsored by the University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas (UMIA) and UM’s College of Arts and Sciences.

    Kate Ramsey, faculty lead for Hemispheric Caribbean Studies at UMIA, opened the town hall. “We are very pleased to be able to share the findings of this important study conducted in the southern region of Haiti after Hurricane Matthew,” said Ramsey.

    In her welcome remarks, Felicia Marie Knaul, director of UMIA, called the study “an extraordinary example of our scholarship that transcends academic research and touches the lives of many. We are very grateful that UM has been able to be part of it.”

    Marcelin and Cela elaborated on the multidisciplinary and participatory method used in the study, which included ethnography, asset-access mapping, community leader and household surveys, as well as historical and political analysis. “While we acknowledge the vulnerabilities of these communities, they do have assets and resources that can be built upon to help them get back on their feet,” said Marcelin.

    Their study revealed that health, access to food, and agricultural production are some of the major issues in the affected regions. “We partnered with Project Medishare to conduct a health intervention that allowed us to collect the epidemiological data needed,” Cela said.

    The eye of Hurricane Matthew passed directly over the cities of Dame Marie and Anse d’Hainault, where Mayor Simon said the study has helped tackle critical issues. But he noted that mayors’ offices are ill-equipped to address these type of events. “Three months after the hurricane, no one can really work, particularly farmers,” Simon said.

    Audience members, including those from the Haitian diaspora, the current president of the UM Haitian student organization Planet Kreyol, and other scholars, were genuinely interested in the next steps and recommendations on how to become more involved in the country’s reconstruction. “While there are challenges, there are opportunities. We have the challenge to make a difference,” Pierreval said.

    In turn, Karl Jean-Louis, executive director of the Observatoire Citoyen de l’Action des Pouvoirs Publics en Haïti (OCAPH), a civil society organization in Haiti strongly involved in the recovery and reconstruction of the country, added that the study has become a tool to influence government action. “We facilitated a meeting with the prime minister to share the findings of the report, and also shared it with the president of the Health Commission of the Senate,” he said.

    Thomas, the consul general of Haiti in Miami, recognized the work of UM scholars. “I would like to thank the University of Miami for contributing to finding solutions to public issues in Haiti. We are looking forward to building partnerships with UM and Haitian universities,” he said.

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