BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Local Haitians pressed U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy to ensure that aid gets into the hands of residents of the island nation, which was devastated by a powerful Hurricane Matthew.
The group met with Murphy at the Bethel Memorial Deliverance Church in Bridgeport on Thursday to push for Haitians to be directly involved in the relief efforts after the powerful storm, which killed over 1,000 people and caused $1 billion in damage.
After a 2010 earthquake killed an estimated 220,000 people in Haiti, there were questions about how billions in dollars in aid were spent and how foreign organizations controlled the money. Haitians believed that local organizations were pushed to the side by outside governments and foreign non-governmental organizations.
"This time, five years later, we want assurances that the same thing is not happening," said the Rev. Jean-Luc Charles, pastor of the First Haitian Free Methodist Church in Stamford. He asked that Haitian organizations be fully integrated in relief decision-making.
He said there is skepticism in Haiti about large, foreign organizations.
"In fact, people are asking each other not to give to the big organizations but to give locally locally, to give individually or to give specifically to Haitian-American organizations," he said. "I think the Red Cross has some apologizing to do and has a serious, serious trust gap because the way they handled the money.
"This is how people are feeling on the ground," he said.
Murphy acknowledged there has been criticism of how the earthquake relief was handled.
"These aid organizations essentially set up a parallel structure to do a lot of the functions that traditionally would be done by a domestic government on their own and the critique of that was that A: that they didn't as much as they said but B: you don't build long-term sustainability when you parachute in and spend a bench of money and then sort of withdraw."
Murphy said he understood that aid organizations have said it was difficult to hand over money to a government that was devastated and not be guaranteed there would be a better response.
But the United States still leads the world in disaster relief, he said.
"The United States is still the biggest donor in disasters like this; there is nobody more generous than the United States," he said. The country can be even more generous and noted that ensuring a stable Haiti is important for the United States, Murphy said.
"We are at risk when Haiti is at risk," he said.
The meeting was chaired by the Rev. Pierre D'Haiti of Faith Community Baptist Church. D'Haiti said everything is needed from money to clothes to money in order to help Haiti after the deadly hurricane.
"We know that they need money," he said. "We know they need food, they clothing, they need shoes, we know that. They need water."
D'Haiti also warned that Haitians also face the danger of disease arising in the wake of the devastation.
"After this hurricane, there will be a great disaster the mosquitoes will rise, the mosquitoes will rise," he said.
D'Haiti also said that differences and egos have to be submerged in order to get work accomplished.
"If you are into the title thing, I don't need to work with you," he said. "I am a servant. We need people who are committed to serve right now."
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