The Taiwan-based Buddhist charity and humanitarian organization Tzu Chi Foundation was among several Taiwanese groups mobilizing to help Haiti in recent weeks, following a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on 14 August. The quick action by Tzu Chi follows the organization’s long history of serving the people of Haiti. Tzu Chi Foundation has donated water purification tablets, medical kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), blankets, beds, and food packages for the approximately 800,000 people affected by the quake.
Tzu Chi Foundation partnered with the Taiwanese government and the Taiwan Red Cross to gather supplies for a 25-tonne shipment of goods, which was handed over in Taiwan on 26 August. Tzu Chi Haiti, which operates in the country, planned to begin distributing items in the southwestern port city of Les Cayes in early September.
On 7 September, the Embassy of Taiwan in Haiti, the Haitian government, and others hosted a donation ceremony at the Tzu Chi Haiti Warehouse in Port-au-Prince to offer thanks for the effort. Attending the ceremony were the prime minister of the Republic of Haiti, Ariel Henry, as well as the Taiwanese ambassador to Haiti Richard Ku, along with Tzu Chi Haiti volunteers and Tzu Chi’s Haiti Earthquake Response Team.
Accepting the donations on behalf of the people of Haiti, the prime minister offered thanks, saying: “Thank you so much. I know that Taiwan’s people came again for this disaster [which] happened in August. We really appreciate it, and I hope they continue to support us.” (Denver Gazette)
Addressing issues around security for moving relief items from the capital to where they are needed, Henry assured the Tzu Chi volunteers: “I encourage Taiwan’s people to work closely with civil protection and our national police. I know it’s difficult in this time to travel to Les Cayes because the road is dangerous. My government will make sure you have all our support.” (Denver Gazette)
Taiwan’s ambassador to Haiti spoke at the ceremony as well, saying: “Taiwanese people have big hearts. [They are] always eager to help when they hear people get affected by natural disaster. Today, this donation ceremony is showing the great relationship between Taiwan and Haiti, and lets Haitian people know they are not alone.” (Denver Gazette)
In particular, Ku praised Tzu Chi’s efforts: “During critical situations, Tzu Chi is always the first to arrive. Additionally, Tzu Chi has been in Haiti for a long time and has gained trust from the locals, creating a very positive energy for the embassy to work with. We hope to use this positive energy to let our Haitian friends know Taiwan has a friendly team in Haiti, ready to support with the warmest assistance at any time.” (Denver Gazette)
Tzu Chi Foundation began in 1966 under the leadership of Taiwanese Buddhist nun and Dharma Master Cheng Yen. Its missions include offering medicine, charity, education, and humanistic culture to 126 countries. Tzu Chi first began its work in Haiti in 1998 and was one of the earliest responders to the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, building schools and providing regular distributions of rice and other essential goods for those affected.
The 14 August earthquake hit some 125 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince. By 16 August, 1,297 were confirmed dead with countless missing. Relief efforts are made more difficult due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the onset of hurricane season in the region. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), nearly a million people in Haiti are expected to experience high levels of food insecurity in the months ahead, and more than 200,000 people have lost access to safe drinking water as a result of the earthquake.
Tzu Chi Haiti Earthquake Relief
The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Recognized at a Donation Ceremony on 9/7 Attended by Haiti Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Ambassador to Haiti from Taiwan Richard Ku (Denver Gazette)
Taiwan donates additional quake emergency supplies to Haiti (Taiwan Today)
Taiwanese groups to donate clothing, shoes to Haiti (Focus Taiwan)
Haiti: Earthquake Situation Report No. 5 – 14 September 2021 (Reliefweb)
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