MCC, local partnerships and humanitarian standards

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[Individual articles from the Winter 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

During the first MCC response in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine) in the early 1920s, MCC worked with local Mennonite institutions and committees to deliver urgent humanitarian assistance to respond to famine. While the humanitarian landscape has changed dramatically since MCC’s inception, MCC has continued to increase partnerships with local organizations, including local churches, faith-based organizations and other civil society organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to people impacted by conflict and disaster. In the last few decades, humanitarian principles and standards have significantly evolved to ensure more accountability to and ensure the rights of disaster-affected communities. MCC’s strength in responding to humanitarian crises is its wide network of local partners. MCC provides support based on requests from local organizations who are well connected to their local contexts and have access to affected communities. Because these organizations have longstanding relationships in their communities, they can respond quickly to emergency needs and offer assistance that is appropriate and responsive to ongoing needs and is sensitive to contextual challenges.

In June 1957, flour and cornmeal were distributed to storm victims in South Korea. In this photo, MCC service worker Joseph Smucker, of Goshen, Indiana helps to lift a tub of flour (weighing about 50 lbs) onto the head of a woman who is also carrying a baby on her back. Each recipient was allotted 5 lbs of flour per family member. (MCC photo)

MCC’s reliance on local partnerships also presents challenges, including in the ability to scale-up, and can cause tensions with humanitarian principles and standards. This article provides an overall summary of key humanitarian standards and the more recent emphasis on the localization of humanitarian assistance. It highlights examples of MCC’s response to various emergencies and how local partners enhance the quality and accountability of humanitarian assistance, while also noting areas of tension and growth.

Accountability to the people and communities affected by disasters stands at the centre of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) adopted by international non-governmental organizations in 2015. Humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence form the key principles that govern humanitarian action. The CHS builds off earlier humanitarian conventions, codes of conduct, principles and standards developed by the International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Sphere project and other humanitarian coalitions and standards organizations. The CHS outlines nine commitments which can be grouped into three overall categories: 1) timely access to quality humanitarian assistance which builds local capacities; 2) participation of, communication with and accountability to affected communities; and 3) a commitment to learning and building the capacity and effectiveness of humanitarian actors. The examples and discussion below show how MCC’s approach of partnering with local organizations interfaces with these standards.

At times, partner requests can be at odds with minimum standards and humanitarian principles. Local organizations are often faced with political and social pressures to respond to as many communities and people as possible, pressures which, if acted on, can dilute the quality of assistance.

At the World Humanitarian Summit in 2017, governments, international aid organizations and United Nations agencies committed to reshape the humanitarian sector, articulated in what has come to be called the Grand Bargain Commitments. One of these commitments is to increase support and funding for local and national organizations in humanitarian action, often referred to as the “localization agenda.” The UN Secretary General called for humanitarian assistance to be “as local as possible and as international as necessary”—this includes a call for private and government resources to support local agencies, rather than relying on large international humanitarian agencies, and to commit multi-year funding to enable better response capacity. These commitments are based on the recognition that local civil society actors are often the first to respond to humanitarian crises and are an ongoing presence in their communities before and after these crises.

The first group of humanitarian standards refers to the importance of providing timely, quality and appropriate assistance, including assistance that builds local capacity and avoids harm. The strength of MCC’s relief response stems from its wide network of over 500 local partners. Local organizations are more connected and responsive to the needs of people affected in the communities they serve. Due to MCC’s existing partnerships in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, MCC has been able over the past decade to facilitate its largest response to a humanitarian crisis since World War II. Following the Nepal earthquake in 2015, existing community development partners were able to quickly identify affected communities in remote areas and to identify and address the most urgent needs, despite huge communication and logistical challenges. During the Israeli military’s bombardment of Gaza in 2014, MCC was among the first international organizations to respond to the immediate food and shelter needs of affected people. In countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, MCC’s ongoing agriculture and food security work with vulnerable communities has paved the way for MCC to also respond during food security crises. MCC’s existing community development and peacebuilding partnerships allow it to quickly respond to humanitarian crises because of the pre-existing program these partner organizations have with vulnerable groups.

On July 17, 2014, a truckload of food packages were distributed by MCC partner Zakho Small Villages Project at an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in northern Iraq–most of the IDPs fled the city of Mosul after its takeover by Islamic State group (also known as ISIS). More than 230 heads of household received the packages which contained basic cooking staples such as rice, lentils, oil and other ingredients, as well as some basic hygiene items. Names not used for security reasons. (MCC photo/Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

At the same time, MCC has faced challenges in some large-scale disaster responses because MCC either did not have existing local partners, as when it responded to the Japan earthquake in 2011 and to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013. Following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2014, MCC worked to form new partnerships in Banda Aceh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. MCC also built on local partnerships in India with other Canadian NGOs to form a multi-church agency response in southern India.

In the case of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, MCC had a broad network of local partners and significant resources to program. Over the course of MCC’s seven-year response, MCC undertook food security, shelter, water and sanitation and trauma healing responses through partnerships with Haitian organizations. MCC’s wide network of existing and new partners allowed MCC to mount an immediate, significant and multi-sectoral relief and recovery response. However, the final evaluation noted that MCC should have engaged with fewer partners and focused on fewer sectors. In a large-scale disaster response in which MCC raises significant resources and has a wide network of partners with urgent requests, it can be challenging to keep MCC’s overall response focused.

The capacity to provide timely and appropriate assistance depends on whether local partners have active programming and strong relationships in affected areas. When local partners have robust and active relationships with affected communities, they are also more likely to deliver quality and appropriate assistance. Food assistance is one of the most common requests that MCC receives from local partners. Local partners recommend culturally appropriate and quality food assistance. MCC’s local partners can help discern the proper modality of the humanitarian response (i.e., cash, vouchers or in-kind food baskets). When food baskets are identified as the best approach, local partners are well-positioned to determine the make-up of the food ration. Decisions about the mode and type of food items are then reviewed by MCC to ensure that they meet Sphere minimum standards, including standards that aim to ensure that households receive the required ration for dignity and survival. MCC and its partners together assess what shape humanitarian assistance initiatives should take, with partners bringing local knowledge about what communities name as the top priorities and about what they understand as appropriate, and with MCC assessing such requests through the lens of global humanitarian standards.

At times, partner requests can be at odds with minimum standards and humanitarian principles. Local organizations are often faced with political and social pressures to respond to as many communities and people as possible, pressures which, if acted on, can dilute the quality of assistance. MCC often pushes local organizations to focus their responses to meet minimum humanitarian standards for fewer communities and households, rather than diluting the response across too many recipients. When faced with overwhelming needs, MCC and its partners must maintain the overall principle of humanity, focusing on meeting the needs of the most affected communities to the necessary standard.

In this 2009 photo, Slavica Koncarevic (left), staff of MCC partner Bread of Life Belgrade (BOLB), distributes MCC canned turkey and blankets to members of the Roma community, a minority ethnic group that faces discrimination in education and employment. (MCC photo/Tim Friesen)

The second group of CHS principles relates to participation, communication and accountability. Affected people must help shape humanitarian responses, provide feedback and lodge complaints while those responses are underway and contribute to the evaluation of humanitarian responses. MCC has worked with various churches, faith-based organizations and other groups to set up or strengthen local disaster committees. These local committees will typically include local church leadership along with required skills, knowledge and representation from the affected community. In the case of MCC’s recent response to the crisis in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MCC worked with three Congolese Anabaptist church denominations to set-up local relief committees to develop and oversee the response, a multifaceted response targeting internally displaced Congolese that included food assistance, education support, livelihood recovery, trauma healing and peacebuilding components. The local relief committee offered input into the shape of the response, channeling feedback from youth leaders, the women’s commission of the church, church leadership and local government officials.

In addition to coordinating and delivering humanitarian assistance, relief committees provide invaluable counsel in identifying the priority needs the humanitarian assistance will aim to address and in selecting (or “targeting”) the priority households for receiving assistance. In the case of the Kasai response, the local relief committees, with strong accompaniment from MCC, helped in selecting the geographic areas in which they would respond as well as the priority households to receive assistance. Building on the humanitarian principles of humanity and impartiality, the committees selected households based on need, focusing on the most vulnerable, including households with pregnant or nursing mothers, unaccompanied children, people living with disabilities and the elderly. Diverse representation on relief committees, and particularly the involvement of displaced people themselves, strengthens accountability and the targeting of the response. This relief committee model helps protect church leadership who may be accused of discrimination based on church membership or affiliation or other characteristics (e.g., ethnicity or political affiliation). MCC has also worked hard to ensure there is better gender representation on these committees and worked toward integrating gender analysis into its humanitarian response.

In addition to overseeing the targeting of the response, local organizations also solicit feedback and manage complaints from communities receiving humanitarian assistance. Their presence in the community means that they can receive feedback and complaints more directly and are more accessible than staff from other outside agencies. A growing priority for MCC is to help local organizations set up formal feedback and complaint mechanisms in order to increase accountability to and participation of the affected community, as well as to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, fraud and corruption. MCC continues to build its capacity to better work alongside local partners to ensure the participation of affected people throughout the assessment, design, monitoring and evaluation process, as part of a broader commitment that MCC’s humanitarian responses be adaptive and appropriate.

MCC humanitarian work over the past decades has increasingly relied on local partnerships, with MCC now almost exclusively working with local partners in disaster response.

Coordination and collaboration are also central to this second group of CHS principles. Local organizations are connected to the communities, organizations and government where they operate and often prioritize coordination with local government. At the same time, large international organizations coordinate through the UN cluster system which can often create barriers to participation from local organizations, including safety, language, social or cultural barriers. As an example, in the case of the Haiti earthquake, the initial UN coordination meetings were held in the MINUSTAH (UN Haiti peacekeeping force) compound, with the meetings conducted in English or French and not Haitian Creole. The meetings were often dominated by representatives of international NGOs from the global North with large capacity and were not accessible spaces for staff from smaller local organizations. MCC sometimes represents its local partners within these UN coordination mechanisms.

The last group of three CHS principles relates to organizational learning, capacity building and the effective use of resources. In 2017, MCC conducted a review of its program planning, monitoring and evaluation system. The findings and recommendations included the need for MCC to continue to increase partner and MCC staff capacity in assessment, design, monitoring and evaluation methods, particularly the use of participatory action research methods. The Keystone survey in 2013—an independent survey of MCC’s local partners—found that partners perceive MCC to be a learning organization and at the same time would like more MCC capacity building support in participatory monitoring evaluation methods.

MCC’s capacity building support helps ensure that MCC will have skilled partners who can adhere to humanitarian standards in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian initiatives. MCC works at partner capacity building in multiple ways, including: a) sponsoring training on humanitarian principles and minimum standards, planning, monitoring and evaluation, and trauma healing and peacebuilding; b) helping organizations set up diverse local relief committees; c) facilitating learning exchanges between different groups; and d) providing significant accompaniment in assessment, planning and reporting. One of the criticisms of working through local organizations is their surge capacity—the ability (or lack thereof) of these small local organizations to scale-up to respond to large humanitarian needs. MCC’s approach has been to start small and scale-up as these partners demonstrate their capacity to manage larger initiatives. MCC humanitarian work over the past decades has increasingly relied on local partnerships, with MCC now almost exclusively working with local partners in disaster response. In our experience this model has allowed us to meet humanitarian standards and principles including ensuring an appropriate and quality response, accountability to, participation of and communication with disaster affected communities. MCC continues to build its capacity with long-term local partners, allowing MCC to scale-up over time and increase its capacity to respond to disasters through local partnerships while meeting humanitarian standards.

Soup being served at a school in Germany, 1947–48, as part of MCC relief efforts at the end of the Second World War. MCC particpated in a joint childfeeding program that reached 72,000 children in eight cities in southeastern Germany. (MCC photo/Heinz Wagener)

Bruce Guenther is MCC’s disaster response director, based in Winnipeg.

Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability. Available at https:// corehumanitarianstandard.org/ the-standard.

The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. Geneva: Sphere Association, 2018. Available at https://www.spherestandards.org/.

Barbelet, Veronique. “As Local as Possible, As International as Necessary: Understanding Capacity and Complementarity in Humanitarian Action”. HPG Working Paper. London: Overseas Development Institute, 2018. Bennett, Christian, et al. Time to Let Go: Remaking Humanitarian Action for the Modern Era. London: Overseas Development Institute, 2016.

Lecciones aprendidas de las iniciativas de ayuda humanitaria del CCM Haití después del terremoto de 2010

[Articulos Individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Invierno 2020 se publican dos veces blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

El 12 de enero de 2010, un terremoto masivo azotó a Haití, matando a más de 100,000 personas (algunas estimaciones colocan la cifra de muertos mucho más alta), destruyendo decenas de miles de hogares y negocios y dañando gravemente la infraestructura del país. En los meses y años siguientes, el CCM, que ha estado operando en Haití desde 1958, emprendió una respuesta humanitaria y de rehabilitación a gran escala (para el CCM). A continuación se puede encontrar un resumen de las facetas clave de la respuesta al terremoto de varios años del CCM. En este artículo, Herve Alcina, coordinador de logística y ayuda humanitaria para la respuesta al terremoto, reflexiona sobre las lecciones que el CCM aprendió al unirse a las iglesias haitianas y organizaciones comunitarias para responder a las necesidades de las personas y comunidades devastadas por el terremoto.

Mary Sony se sienta junto a su puesto en el mercado en Puerto Príncipe, Haití, el cual perdió en el terremoto de enero de 2010, lo que hizo que le fuera muy difícil ayudar a mantener a su familia. Sony participó en un programa de recapitalización dirigido por la Fundación Ecuménica para la Paz y la Justicia (FOPJ por sus siglas en inglés), una organización asociada del CCM, para reabastecer productos y capacitar a los vendedores sobre cómo administrar el dinero y brindar servicio al cliente. (Foto del CCM / Silas Crews).

¿Cuáles fueron los éxitos en las distribuciones de asistencia humanitaria después del terremoto de 2010 en Haití?

Una de las cosas que el CCM hizo muy bien después del terremoto fue responder rápidamente. Mucha gente tenía necesidades apremiantes y el CCM estaba allí para responder de cualquier manera en que pudiéramos. Distribuimos lonas, baldes de ayuda, baldes para filtrar agua, carne enlatada, colchas, paquetes de higiene, alimentos de emergencia como arroz y frijoles y otros artículos que la gente necesitaba con urgencia. También trabajamos con comités locales en los campamentos. Esto nos ayudó a poder trabajar más directamente con la gente local y fue una fortaleza de nuestra respuesta.

¿Qué lecciones aprendió el CCM de su respuesta al terremoto de Haití?

Había tantas necesidades y tanto sufrimiento, por lo que decidimos hacer evaluaciones después de que el proyecto estaba en marcha y descubrimos que algunas personas habían recibido suministros de varias organizaciones. Algunas personas recibieron ayuda aunque ni ellas ni sus familias habían sido impactados por el terremoto. Aprendimos sobre la necesidad de realizar evaluaciones antes de que comiencen los proyectos, incluso si eso significa retrasar el proyecto unos días. Aprendimos que si vamos a dar una respuesta que requiera habilidades especializadas, como la construcción de casas, debemos asegurarnos de que nuestro equipo tenga la capacidad suficiente para administrar proyectos altamente técnicos. Deberíamos centrarnos más en lo que ya somos expertos y no comenzar a hacer nuevos tipos de trabajo después de un desastre, incluso si hay una gran necesidad.

Aprendimos que si vamos a dar una respuesta que requiera habilidades especializadas, como la construcción de casas, debemos asegurarnos de que nuestro equipo tenga la capacidad suficiente para administrar proyectos altamente técnicos. Deberíamos centrarnos más en lo que ya somos expertos y no comenzar a hacer nuevos tipos de trabajo después de un desastre, incluso si hay una gran necesidad.

Una de las cosas difíciles del terremoto fue programar cantidades tan grandes de dinero. Al ver hacia atrás, creo que, a veces, nuestros proyectos eran demasiado grandes para organizaciones asociadas que nunca habían manejado proyectos de ese tamaño. A veces, eso creó conflictos y condujo a proyectos que no funcionaron tan bien como nos hubiera gustado.

Un desafío en la distribución de asistencia humanitaria después del terremoto fue que no siempre había un sistema sólido de coordinación y comunicación entre las ONG. Eso es algo que creo que siempre podemos mejorar para cualquier respuesta a desastres.

¿Cómo ha integrado el CCM Haití las lecciones de la respuesta al terremoto de 2010 en respuestas de emergencia más recientes?

El CCM en Haití trabaja con personas vulnerables, y a veces es más difícil acceder a esas personas vulnerables —ya que están más lejos de las oficinas del CCM y puede que no haya un camino que nos lleve a ellas. Sin embargo, hemos trabajado duro para no olvidar estas comunidades aisladas, incluso cuando otras ONG las hayan abandonado.

Aprendimos muchas lecciones sobre la distribución de ayuda humanitaria después del terremoto de 2010. Desafortunadamente para Haití, hemos tenido tres respuestas a desastres en los últimos tres años donde hemos podido practicar la aplicación de las lecciones que aprendimos. Después del huracán Matthew (2016), el huracán Irma (2017) y el terremoto de 2018, realizamos evaluaciones rápidas de campo antes de considerar cualquier proyecto. La realización de estas evaluaciones fue muy útil y nos hizo más efectivos para llevar los recursos del CCM a las personas más vulnerables.

El CCM Haití ha estado trabajando arduamente a lo largo de los años desde el terremoto de 2010 para realizar más talleres de capacitación para nuestras organizaciones asociadas en temas como primeros auxilios psicológicos, cómo desarrollar mejores planes de proyectos y cómo proteger a las personas vulnerables. Todas estas cosas han resultado en mejores respuestas a desastres del CCM y nuestras organizaciones asociadas.

Los aprendizajes esenciales de la respuesta al terremoto de 2010 incluyen lo siguiente:

  • Hemos aprendido que necesitamos construir sobre la experiencia y especializaciones de nuestro personal. Hemos aprendido que no somos tan buenos en proyectos de vivienda, por lo que ya no los hacemos, pero somos muy buenos en el trabajo agrícola a corto y largo plazo, por lo que hemos incluido este aspecto en muchos de nuestros proyectos de desastres donde las personas perdieron sus huertos y medios de vida.
  • Aprendimos que, a veces, los proyectos pueden ser demasiado grandes para que las organizaciones asociadas los administren, y que necesitan proyectos de menor escala que se expandan gradualmente, por lo que el CCM ha trabajado para desarrollar la capacidad de nuestros asociados de manera más gradual e intencional con proyectos más pequeños que progresivamente se hacen más grandes, en lugar de buscar desarrollar proyectos muy grandes como después del terremoto de 2010, proyectos que resultaron difíciles de manejar para las organizaciones asociadas. Esto nos ha permitido construir organizaciones asociadas más fuertes en quienes confiamos más en su capacidad para implementar proyectos más grandes.
  • Una lección importante que aprendimos de la evaluación de la respuesta del CCM al terremoto es mantenernos fieles a nuestros valores. El CCM en Haití trabaja con personas vulnerables, y a veces es más difícil acceder a esas personas vulnerables —ya que están más lejos de las oficinas del CCM y puede que no haya un camino que nos lleve a ellas. Sin embargo, hemos trabajado duro para no olvidar estas comunidades aisladas, incluso cuando otras ONG las hayan abandonado. Por ejemplo, después del huracán Matthew en 2017, todas las grandes ONG fueron al sur de Haití, donde se produjo la peor destrucción, pero también hubo personas que perdieron sus hogares y huertos en el Valle Artibonite, personas que no tenían una voz para decir que necesitaban ayuda, pero nuestras organizaciones asociadas sabían que necesitaban nuestra ayuda y abogaron por estas personas para que no fueran olvidadas. El CCM les respondió, trayendo a estas comunidades carne enlatada, colchas y baldes de ayuda. A través de estas pequeñas acciones, el CCM se solidarizó con estas comunidades rurales frecuentemente descuidadas y reconoció su sufrimiento.
  • Una lección importante que hemos aprendido es almacenar previamente los recursos humanitarios, lo que permite distribuciones de ayuda más rápidas y eficientes. Cada año, el CCM Haití recibe un contenedor lleno de suministros básicos de emergencia que el CCM podría necesitar si un desastre golpeara a Haití nuevamente, suministros como colchas, baldes de ayuda y carne enlatada. Mantenemos estos recursos materiales almacenados en los terrenos de nuestra oficina, por lo que estamos listos en cualquier momento para responder. Este almacenamiento previo nos permitió responder dentro de las 48 horas a un desastre reciente. Me enorgullece haber podido ayudar a las personas rápidamente en su momento de necesidad.
Nicholas Mardoché lleva una caja de carne enlatada de un camión de reparto a un almacén en el Campamento Galilea, que se convirtió en el hogar de muchas personas, incluyendo a Mardoché, después del terremoto de enero de 2010 en Puerto Príncipe, Haití. En la tarde del 12 de enero de 2010, un terremoto de magnitud 7,0 MW devastó Puerto Príncipe, la capital de Haití y las áreas circundantes. Para el 24 de enero, hubo al menos 52 réplicas de 4.5 o más, lo que causó más daños y lentificó la recuperación. (Foto del CCM / Ben Depp).

Herve Alcina ha coordinado las respuestas de logística y ayuda material del CCM Haití al terremoto de 2010, al huracán Matthew (2016), al huracán Irma (2017 y al terremoto del 2018).



Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York: Picador, 2013.

Farmer, Paul. Haiti after the Earthquake. New York: Public Affairs, 2012.

Frerichs, Ralph R. Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post Earthquake Haiti. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 2017.

Katz, Jonathan M. The Big Truck. That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. New York: St. Martin’s, 2014.

Menonitas de Indonesia y sanidad del trauma a raíz del tsunami de 2004 en Aceh

[Articulos Individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Invierno 2020 se publican dos veces blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

El terremoto y el tsunami en Aceh, ocurridos el 26 de diciembre de 2004, representa uno de los desastres más mortales en la historia de Indonesia. El tsunami del Océano Índico mató a 280,000 personas en 14 países, con el mayor número de víctimas en Aceh, donde más de 150,000 personas murieron y desaparecieron. Miles y miles de casas y otros edificios fueron destruidos, con una gran devastación en la infraestructura.

El 26 de diciembre de 2004, ocurrió un terremoto frente a la costa oeste del norte de Sumatra que causó un tsunami, una serie de grandes olas sísmicas, que devastó las áreas costeras circundantes, matando a más de 260,000 personas y dejando a cinco millones de personas sin hogar. El CCM respondió en India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Somalia y otros países con ayuda inmediata y a largo plazo, incluyendo alimentación, salud, vivienda, generación de ingresos y sanidad del trauma. (Foto del CCM / Dan Marschka).

El tsunami desplazó a decenas de miles de acehnenses. Agencias de ayuda internacionales e indonesias llegaron a Aceh para ayudar. Una de estas agencias fue el Servicio de Diaconía Menonita de Indonesia, o IMDS (por sus siglas en inglés), establecido en 2005 por una de las iglesias Menonitas de Indonesia (Sínodo GKMI). Junto con el Foro de Hermandad Humanitaria e Indonesia (FKPI), el IMDS se movilizó para proporcionar servicios de sanidad del trauma a los acehnenses desplazados que habían vivido el tsunami. El IMDS atrajo voluntarios interreligiosos de la facultad de teología de Duta Wacana Yogyakarta y de la facultad de psicología de Soegiyopranoto Semarang y la Universidad Cristiana Satya Wacana en Salatiga para ayudar a diseñar e implementar el programa de respuesta al trauma. Mientras tanto, el CCM trajo al psicólogo Karl y psicóloga Evelyn Bartsch para ayudar a preparar módulos de respuesta al trauma y capacitar al personal de IMDS en programación informada sobre el trauma. Al ingresar a Aceh, el equipo de IMDS se conectó con el internado islámico Al-Muayat Windan para revisar los módulos sobre el trauma para asegurar que las respuestas al trauma que IMDS promovería serían aceptadas dentro de la cultura islámica de Aceh. Ustad Dian Nafi, del internado, demostró ser invaluable en este proceso.

Después de una extensa consulta, el IMDS, con el apoyo del CCM, publicó un libro que contiene módulos de sanidad del trauma con raíces culturales. Titulado The Wounded Healer (Sanidad del estrés y del trauma), este libro fue desarrollado para capacitar al IMDS y otros trabajadores de respuesta al trauma en Java antes de ir a Aceh para ofrecer talleres sobre las formas en que las víctimas del tsunami pudieran hacerle frente y recuperarse del trauma, así como para ayudar a familiares y vecinos a recuperarse de un trauma. El modelo de sanidad del trauma empleado por IMDS incluyó los siguientes componentes:

Lugar seguro: proporcionar alivio del trauma requería construir buenas relaciones con las comunidades traumatizadas por el tsunami, con buenas relaciones que fomentaran una sensación de comodidad y confianza y fortalecieran la paz dentro de las comunidades al fomentar lazos a través de líneas de diferencia.

Apoyo a la sanidad del trauma: las iniciativas terapéuticas promovieron la recuperación psicológica y espiritual.

Apoyo espiritual: se entendió que la religión era un recurso importante para ayudar a las comunidades a sobrellevar y recuperarse del trauma. Los voluntarios musulmanes ayudaron a garantizar que el programa de IMDS ofreciera apoyo espiritual a las víctimas acehnenses del tsunami que les habló desde lo más profundo de la tradición islámica.

El IMDS entendió que la religión era un recurso importante para ayudar a las comunidades a enfrentar y recuperarse del trauma.

Apoyo a la actividad: la sanidad del trauma involucra no solo la mente y el espíritu, sino también el cuerpo. Por lo tanto, IMDS organizó deportes, artesanías y otras actividades diseñadas para mujeres, niñas, hombres y niños desplazados por el tsunami que energizaron sus cuerpos y espíritus.

Asistencia a consejeros / psicólogos: El IMDS brindó capacitación especializada a consejeros y psicólogos en Aceh para que estuvieran equipados para brindar apoyo en la sanidad de traumas a miles de acehnenses cuyas vidas habían sido trastornadas por el tsunami.

El IMDS inició su respuesta de sanidad del trauma en Aceh a principios de 2005, tres semanas después del tsunami. Los acehnenses inicialmente respondieron al programa de sanidad del trauma con sospecha, dada la profunda tristeza de pérdida por el tsunami, el ser invitados a participar en actividades en las que tenían espacio para reír, jugar y contar historias les parecía muy extraño. Con el tiempo, sin embargo, llegaron a valorar el programa, reconociendo cómo las actividades de sanidad del trauma habían mejorado sus vidas construyendo su resiliencia.

La sanidad del trauma involucra no solo la mente y el espíritu, sino también el cuerpo. Por lo tanto, IMDS organizó deportes, artesanías y otras actividades diseñadas para mujeres, niñas, hombres y niños desplazados por el tsunami que energizaron sus cuerpos y espíritus.

El IMDS ofreció servicios intensivos a las víctimas del tsunami que enfrentaban desafíos particularmente intensos. Uno de esos ejemplos fue una mujer acehnense a quien llamaré Tini. Tini sentía una culpa excesiva por perder a su único pariente cercano, su hermana. Previo al tsunami, la hermana de Tini había salido de casa para comprar materiales de cocina. Después de sentir el terremoto que provocó el tsunami, Tini salió a buscar a su hermana, pero no pudo encontrarla. A medida que el agua del mar comenzó a subir rápidamente, Tini se unió a otros en el caos corriendo hacia un terreno más alto, con gente cayendo, siendo pisoteada y pidiendo ayuda, pero todos prestando atención solo a su propia seguridad. Cuando no se pudo encontrar a su hermana después del tsunami, Tini no pudo soportar la tristeza y el sentimiento de culpa por haber sobrevivido. Luchaba con sentimientos de aislamiento y tenía dificultades para comprender cómo podría continuar con su vida. Por recomendación de una amiga, Tini asistió a un taller de IMDS sobre sanidad del trauma y luego recibió un intenso apoyo psicológico y consejería. Con el tiempo, el espíritu de vida brotó en Tini y pudo volver a interactuar con su comunidad. La historia de Tini destaca que las respuestas efectivas a los desastres no solo atienden las necesidades físicas de las personas cuyas vidas han sido devastadas por la guerra, los tsunamis, los huracanes y más, sino que también prestan atención a sus necesidades psicológicas y espirituales. En los siguientes quince años, las iniciativas de sanidad del trauma se han convertido en un componente estándar de las iniciativas de ayuda humanitaria del CCM e IMDS.

Paulus Hartono es pastor en GKMI Solo (Gerjea Kristen Muria Indonesia, o Iglesia Cristiana Muria en Indonesia) en Java Central, Indonesia. Fundó y actualmente se desempeña como director del Servicio de Diaconía Menonita de Indonesia (IMDS).



Hyndman, Jennifer. Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid after the 2004 Tsunami. Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press, 2011.

Régnier, P., Neri, B., Scuteri, S., and Miniati, S. “From Emergency Relief to Livelihood Recovery.” Disaster Prevention and Management 17/3 (2008): 410-430.

Telford, John and John Cosgrave. “The International Humanitarian System and the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunamis.” Disaster 31/1 (2007):1-28.

Aprendiendo de los esfuerzos de ayuda del CCM después del huracán Mitch

[Articulos individuales de la edicion de Intersecciones de Invierno 2020 se publican dos veces blog cada semana. La edicion completa puede ser encontrada en MCC’s website.]

El CCM se esfuerza por compartir el amor y compasión de Dios por todas las personas a través de la ayuda, desarrollo y paz. Comprometido a fortalecer y apoyar a las iglesias locales y las organizaciones de base comunitaria, el CCM se ha enfocado, desde su inicio, en la importancia de la construcción de relaciones en sus respuestas de ayuda, incluyendo el fomento de relaciones de mutualidad con las iglesias locales. Eso fue cierto hace cien años cuando el CCM respondió a la hambruna en la década de 1920 en el sur de Rusia (actual Ucrania) y fue cierto 78 años más tarde cuando el CCM se movilizó para acompañar a las iglesias y otras organizaciones centroamericanas mientras ministraban a personas cuyas vidas habían sido trastornadas por el huracán Mitch. En este artículo reflexiono sobre lo que el CCM aprendió de la respuesta al huracán Mitch de 1998.

Antes del huracán, los países de Honduras, Guatemala y Nicaragua estaban afectados por condiciones socioeconómicas que aumentaron la vulnerabilidad de muchas personas en estos países a los peligros naturales como los huracanes: cuando el huracán Mitch golpeó, la devastación que causó se vio agravada por estas vulnerabilidades preexistentes.

El huracán Mitch fue la tormenta más fuerte de la temporada de huracanes del Atlántico de 1998, formándose el 22 de octubre y luego convirtiéndose en un huracán de categoría 5. Después de ser degradado a tormenta tropical, Mitch golpeó Honduras, Nicaragua y Guatemala. Según datos de las Naciones Unidas, estos países se encuentran entre los más vulnerables del mundo a las inundaciones y huracanes. Mitch abrió un camino de destrucción en estos tres países, desgarrando comunidades enteras. En Honduras, datos oficiales estiman que más de 5.600 personas murieron y 6.000 desaparecieron, quienes luego fueron declaradas como fallecidas. Mientras tanto, los economistas valoran el daño monetario del huracán en alrededor de US $ 6 mil millones.

Al reflexionar sobre la respuesta del CCM al huracán Mitch, podemos pensar en un antes y un después. Antes del huracán, los países de Honduras, Guatemala y Nicaragua estaban marcados por condiciones socioeconómicas que aumentaron la vulnerabilidad de muchas personas en estos países a los peligros naturales como los huracanes: cuando el huracán Mitch golpeó, la devastación que causó se vio agravada por estas vulnerabilidades preexistentes. Para el CCM y sus organizaciones asociadas, después del huracán significó movilizar a las comunidades para reconstruir la infraestructura, recuperarse del trauma y descubrir nuevas formas de vivir con el medio ambiente que disminuyan la vulnerabilidad de la comunidad a los peligros naturales como los huracanes. Desafortunadamente, veintidós años después del huracán Mitch, persisten muchos de los factores que hacen que las comunidades en Centroamérica sean vulnerables al impacto destructivo de los huracanes, incluyendo sistemas de tenencia de la tierra que privan de derechos a los pequeños agricultores. La juventud menor de 21 años carece de recuerdos de Mitch: en términos más generales, se podría argumentar que las sociedades centroamericanas han olvidado el daño inimaginable que pueden hacer los huracanes como Mitch al no aprender las lecciones de Mitch.

Los paquetes de ayuda del CCM se distribuyeron en Honduras después de que el huracán Mitch azotara América Central a fines de octubre de 1998. El nombre de la destinataria no está disponible. (Foto del CCM / Marlisa Yoder- Bontrager).

Cuando el huracán Mitch tocó tierra, yo vivía y trabajaba en SEMILLA, el Seminario Anabautista Latinoamericano en Guatemala, codirigiendo CASAS, el programa de intercambio cultural y lingüístico del seminario. Recibimos pocas advertencias sobre la llegada del huracán, y las personas que vivían en comunidades remotas recibieron aún menos, ya que no se contaba con un sistema de alerta temprana en ese momento para los huracanes. [Una lección de Mitch fue la necesidad de invertir recursos institucionales y presupuestarios en sistemas de alerta temprana y preparación ante desastres]. Escuché sobre Mitch gracias a un pariente que asistió a una conferencia en el Lago Atitlán en Guatemala, y me llamó tarde una noche para ver si podía ayudarlo a conseguir un vuelo a Honduras, explicando que un poderoso huracán de categoría 5 pronto descendería sobre Honduras. Afortunadamente, mi pariente pudo volar a San Pedro Sula en uno de los últimos vuelos permitidos para aterrizar en Honduras. Una vez que llegaron las lluvias del huracán, el aeropuerto de la ciudad se inundó, con agua hasta el segundo piso de los edificios del aeropuerto. La franja de destrucción del huracán no se limitó al aeropuerto: las lluvias inundaron prácticamente todo el país, incluyendo las comunidades con iglesias Menonitas, destruyendo gran parte de la infraestructura del país.

Aunque vivía en Guatemala cuando Mitch tocó tierra, anteriormente había trabajado en Honduras, mi país de origen. Específicamente, coordiné las respuestas de ayuda de emergencia para el Proyecto MAMA de la Iglesia Menonita de Honduras. En respuesta a las inundaciones en regiones hondureñas como Colonia 6 de Mayo, Chamelecón, Las Cuarenta, Guaimitas y Santa Rita, donde el Proyecto MAMA llevó a cabo iniciativas educativas en colaboración con numerosas iglesias Menonitas, apoyamos congregaciones y comunidades a ayudar a las familias desplazadas por estas inundaciones a reubicarse a otras comunidades, con iglesias Menonitas albergando a familias desplazadas y ofreciendo consuelo y distribuyendo alimentos y artículos de ayuda no alimentarios donados por el CCM. Dada esta experiencia previa en el trabajo de ayuda, me uní a la respuesta de emergencia al huracán Mitch del CCM en Guatemala, dirigida por Scott y Rhoda Jantzi, representantes del CCM en el país en ese momento. Nuestro comité buscó discernir cuál era la mejor manera de emparejar las necesidades de las comunidades guatemaltecas marginadas con el flujo de donaciones de Menonitas en Canadá y Estados Unidos y el deseo de parte de estas iglesias de ayudar de manera práctica.

Desde el huracán Mitch, las iglesias Anabautistas en América Central tienen un mayor compromiso para desarrollar respuestas proactivas a las emergencias y crear comités locales de emergencia que se preparan para tales desastres.

En el transcurso de los próximos meses y años, el CCM y sus organizaciones asociadas guatemaltecas distribuyeron alimentos, colchas y agua y ofrecieron atención médica y albergue de emergencia. Esta primera etapa de emergencia dio paso a la reconstrucción, incluyendo la construcción y reconstrucción de viviendas en la ciudad de Guatemala y Chiquimula y discernir con las comunidades cómo sería la rehabilitación de la vida económica y comunitaria a largo plazo. Los programas del CCM en América Central también dieron la bienvenida a los equipos de trabajo y aprendizaje de EE. UU. y Canadá, que se unieron a las comunidades locales en el trabajo de reconstrucción: mi esposa, Lizette y yo nos unimos a uno de estos equipos de trabajo y aprendizaje en la comunidad de Sabillón Cruz en Chamelecón, Honduras.

La respuesta del CCM al huracán Mitch incluyó elementos inmediatos y de más largo plazo. En el periodo inmediatamente posterior a Mitch, muchas familias no tuvieron alimentos durante muchos días debido a la pérdida de sus cultivos y reservas de alimentos y debido a la dificultad para acceder a los mercados (y para que los alimentos llegaran a los mercados). Durante las siguientes semanas y meses, las enfermedades se extendieron por las comunidades devastadas por el huracán, debido a la contaminación del agua y alimentos en mal estado. A más largo plazo, las familias y comunidades se enfrentaron a la necesidad de reconstruir sus vidas, incluso cuando lloraban la pérdida de sus seres queridos y enfrentaban síntomas de estrés postraumático que no siempre se diagnosticaron como tales. El CCM se unió a sus organizaciones asociadas para buscar responder a estas necesidades multifacéticas.

¿Qué aprendió el CCM y sus organizaciones asociadas, incluyendo las iglesias Menonitas centroamericanas, de la respuesta al huracán Mitch? Los recuerdos del pastor menonita hondureño Oscar Dueñas señalan algunas lecciones clave:

Estaba en mi último año como pastor en la Iglesia Menonita Central en San Pedro Sula, cuando el huracán Mitch azotó Honduras. Inmediatamente comenzamos a involucrarnos en el trabajo de ayuda, contactando y brindando ayuda a las comunidades con iglesias Menonitas y a las comunidades cercanas para identificar las necesidades de emergencia y hacer planes para responder a ellas…

Fui contratado por CASM (Comisión Menonita de Acción Social) como la persona encargada de organizar la distribución de la ayuda material que CASM había recibido del CCM y de los artículos de ayuda que CASM había comprado usando fondos del CCM y otras fuentes. Gestionamos, planificamos y coordinamos la distribución de ayuda humanitaria— primero en respuesta a las necesidades inmediatas, y luego como parte de proyectos de alimentos-por-trabajo en los que las personas beneficiarias ayudaron con la reconstrucción de viviendas individuales y con iniciativas comunitarias de limpieza y rehabilitación. Aprendimos de esta respuesta la importancia de la solidaridad, planificación y coordinación con las comunidades locales.

A lo largo de la respuesta, también sentimos el respaldo de muchas organizaciones externas como CCM, con apoyo para responder a las necesidades prioritarias de las personas. Si bien apreciamos la donación de ayuda material y dinero para la compra local de ayuda humanitaria, acogimos aún con más aprecio a los equipos de trabajo-y-aprendizaje no solo de los EE. UU. y Canadá, sino también de Belice, Guatemala, Costa Rica y Colombia: estos equipos de trabajo-y-aprendizaje que nos acompañaron en el proceso de reconstrucción nos mostraron que no estábamos solos.

El CCM comenzó con una respuesta de emergencia en el sur de Rusia a principios de la década de 1920 que trabajó con los Menonitas para satisfacer las necesidades básicas, no solo de los Menonitas sino también de otros que enfrentaban la hambruna. Setenta y ocho años después, el CCM se unió a las iglesias Menonitas y Hermanos en Cristo y otras organizaciones asociadas en Centroamérica para ayudar a las víctimas del huracán Mitch, tanto a los miembros de las iglesias Anabautistas como a otras personas. Las organizaciones asociadas del CCM incluyeron la Iglesia Menonita de Honduras y su proyecto Proyecto MAMA (hoy ACEM), CASM, Amor Viviente Choluteca, CADE, PRODEM, ADP y la iglesia Hermanos en Cristo. Mientras tanto, el CCM organizó más de 75 equipos de trabajo-y-aprendizaje de Canadá y Estados Unidos que fueron a Honduras y Nicaragua para acompañar a las comunidades en el esfuerzo de reconstrucción.

Delsia Florez recibió un paquete de ayuda del CCM después de que el huracán Mitch azotara Nicaragua y Honduras a fines de octubre de 1998. Florez es fotografiada en su casa en San Jerónimo, Nicaragua en 1999, con sus hijos (desde la izquierda) Preling Enriques, Noremi Enriques y Felixito Enriques (de pie). El CCM distribuyó paquetes de ayuda y alimentos a las víctimas del huracán. (Foto del CCM /Tony Siemens).

A medida que su trabajo disminuía, el CCM encargó una evaluación de su respuesta al huracán Mitch y destacó varias lecciones.

Primero, el CCM aprendió que el huracán Mitch no fue simplemente un desastre “natural”, sino que de hecho fue un desastre social y económico. “El impacto en las personas de este desastre natural dependió mucho de la condición social y económica en la que vivían”, indicó el informe de evaluación, explicando que la conjunción de las amenazas naturales y la vulnerabilidad social y económica agravaban los riesgos que enfrentaban las comunidades. El CCM aprendió la importancia de trabajar con iglesias y organizaciones comunitarias en el desarrollo de planes de preparación para desastres.

En segundo lugar, aprendimos que si bien el CCM en sí no está equipado para ser una organización de primera respuesta, las iglesias y otras organizaciones locales pueden estar bien posicionadas para proporcionar asistencia inmediata, dado su conocimiento de los contextos de la comunidad local. El compromiso de trabajar a través de la asociación, mientras tanto, subrayó la importancia de apoyar a estas organizaciones locales en el desarrollo de planes de preparación para desastres.

Finalmente, la respuesta al huracán Mitch destacó un nuevo papel para las iglesias en la respuesta de emergencia. “Ahora más que nunca, la Iglesia en general y las organizaciones de base específicamente cristianas son vistas como actores del cambio social”, observó el informe de evaluación. Desde el huracán Mitch, las iglesias anabautistas en América Central tienen un mayor compromiso para desarrollar respuestas proactivas a emergencias y crear comités locales de emergencia que se preparan para tales desastres.

César Eduardo Flores Ventura es Director de Área del CCM para Centroamérica y Haití.



Barrios, Roberto E. Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.

Ensor, Marisa O. The Legacy of Hurricane Mitch: Lessons from Post-Disaster Reconstruction in Honduras. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2009.

Lessons learned from MCC Haiti’s humanitarian relief initiatives after the 2010 earthquake

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[Individual articles from the Winter 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, killing well over 100,000 people (some estimates place the death toll much higher), destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses and severely damaging the country’s infrastructure. Over the ensuing months and years, MCC, which had been operating in Haiti since 1958, undertook a large-scale (for MCC) humanitarian and rehabilitation response. A summary of key facets of MCC’s multi-year earthquake response can be found below. In this article, Herve Alcina, logistics and humanitarian aid coordinator for the earthquake response, reflects on what lessons MCC learned as it joined Haitian churches and community-based organizations in responding to the needs of individuals and communities devastated by the earthquake.

What were successes in the humanitarian assistance distributions after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti?

One of the things MCC did very well after the earthquake was responding quickly. So many people had pressing needs and MCC was there to respond in any way we could. We gave tarps, relief buckets, filter buckets, canned meat, comforters, hygiene kits, emergency food like rice and beans and other items that people needed urgently. We also worked with local committees in the camps. This helped us to be able to work more directly with local people and was a strength of our response.

What lessons did MCC learn from its Haiti earthquake response?

We learned that if we are going to do a response that requires specialized skills, like the construction of houses, we need to make sure that our team has enough capacity to manage highly technical projects. We should focus more on what we are already experts at, and not start to do new kinds of work after a disaster, even if there is a great need.

There were so many needs and so much suffering, so we chose to do evaluations after the project was underway and learned that some people had gotten supplies from multiple organizations. Some people received aid when they and their families had not been impacted by the earthquake. We learned about the need to do assessments before projects start, even if it means delaying the project by a few days. We learned that if we are going to do a response that requires specialized skills, like the construction of houses, we need to make sure that our team has enough capacity to manage highly technical projects. We should focus more on what we are already experts at, and not start to do new kinds of work after a disaster, even if there is a great need.

One of the things that was difficult about the earthquake was programming such large amounts of money. When I look back, I think that sometimes our projects were too large for partners that had never handled projects of that size. Sometimes that created conflict and led to projects that didn’t work as well as we would have liked. A challenge in distributing humanitarian assistance after the earthquake was that there wasn’t always a strong system of coordination and communication among NGOs. That is something that I think we can always improve on for any disaster response.

Mary Sony sits by her market stand in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which she lost in the January 2010 earthquake making it very difficult to help support her family. Sony took part in a recapitalization program run by MCC partner Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice (FOPJ) to resupply products and train vendors how to manage money and provide customer service. (MCC photo/Silas Crews)

How has MCC Haiti integrated lessons from the 2010 earthquake response into more recent emergency responses?

We learned many lessons about humanitarian aid distributions after the 2010 earthquake. Unfortunately for Haiti, we’ve had three disaster responses in the past three years where we have been able to practice applying the lessons we learned. After Hurricane Matthew (2016), Hurricane Irma (2017) and the 2018 earthquake, we conducted rapid field assessments before considering any projects. Carrying out these assessments was very useful and made us more effective in getting MCC resources to people who were the most vulnerable.

MCC Haiti has been working hard over the years since the 2010 earthquake to do more capacity building trainings for our partner organizations on topics such as psychological first aid, how to develop better project plans and how to protect vulnerable people. All of these things have resulted in better disaster responses from MCC and our partners.

Essential learning from the 2010 earthquake response thus include the following:

MCC in Haiti works with vulnerable people, and sometimes those vulnerable people are harder to get access to—they are farther away from MCC offices and there might not be a road that gets to them. Yet we have worked hard to not forget these isolated communities, even when other NGOs have abandoned them.

  • We have learned that we need to build on the expertise and specializations of our staff. We have learned that we aren’t as good at housing projects, so we no longer do them, but we are very good at short- and long-term agriculture work, so we have included this aspect in many of our disaster projects where people lost their gardens and livelihoods.
  • We learned that sometimes projects can be too big for partners to manage, and that they need smaller-scale projects that gradually expand, so MCC has worked to build our partners’ capacity more gradually and intentionally with smaller projects that progressively get bigger, instead of seeking to develop really large projects like after the 2010 earthquake, projects that proved hard for partners to manage. This has allowed us to build stronger partners who we are more confident in their capacity to implement larger projects.
  • An important lesson that we learned from the evaluation of MCC’s earthquake response is to stay true to our values. MCC in Haiti works with vulnerable people, and sometimes those vulnerable people are harder to get access to—they are farther away from MCC offices and there might not be a road that gets to them. Yet we have worked hard to not forget these isolated communities, even when other NGOs have abandoned them. For example, after Hurricane Matthew in 2017, all the large NGOs went to the south of Haiti, where some of the worst destruction was, but there were also people who lost their homes and gardens in the Artibonite Valley, people who didn’t have a voice to say they needed help, but our partners knew that they needed our help, and advocated for these people so that they wouldn’t be forgotten. MCC responded to them, bringing these communities canned meat, comforters and relief buckets. Through these small actions, MCC stood in solidarity with these often-neglected rural communities and recognized their suffering.
  • A major lesson we have learned is to pre-position humanitarian resources, allowing for faster and more efficient relief distributions. Every year, MCC Haiti receives a container filled with basic emergency supplies MCC might need if a disaster strikes Haiti again, supplies like comforters, relief buckets and canned meat. We keep these material resources in storage right on our office grounds, so we are ready at any time to respond. This pre-positioning allowed us to respond within 48 hours to a recent disaster. I am proud that we have been able to help people quickly in their time of need.
Nicholas Mardoché carries a case of canned meat from a delivery truck to a storehouse in Camp Galilee, which became home to many people, including Mardoché, after the January 2010 earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti. On the afternoon of 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, and the surrounding areas. By 24 January, there were at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater, causing further damage and slowing recovery. (MCC photo/Ben Dep)

Herve Alcina has coordinated MCC Haiti’s logistics and material aid responses to the 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew (2016), Hurricane Irma (2017) and the 2018 earthquake.


Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York: Picador, 2013.

Farmer, Paul. Haiti after the Earthquake. New York: Public Affairs, 2012.

Frerichs, Ralph R. Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 2017.

Katz, Jonathan M. The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. New York: St. Martin’s, 2014.

Indonesian Mennonites and trauma healing in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh

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[Individual articles from the Winter 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

The earthquake and tsunami in Aceh which occurred on December 26, 2004, represents one of the deadliest disasters in Indonesian history. The Indian Ocean tsunami killed up to 280,000 people in 14 countries, with the greatest number of casualties in Aceh, where more than 150,000 people died and disappeared. Thousands upon thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed, with major devastation to infrastructure.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra which caused a tsunami, a series of large seismic waves, that devastated the surrounding coastal areas killing more than 260,000 people and rendering five million people homeless. MCC responded in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Somalia and other countries with immediate and long-term aid including food, health, housing, income re-generation and trauma counseling. (MCC photo/Dan Marschka)

The tsunami displaced tens of thousands of Acehnese. International and Indonesian aid agencies arrived in Aceh to assist. One of these agencies was the Indonesian Mennonite Diakonia Service, or IMDS, established in 2005 by one of the Indonesian Mennonite churches (GKMI Synod). Together with the Forum of Humanitarian and Indonesian Brotherhood (FKPI), IMDS mobilized to provide trauma healing services to displaced Acehnese who had lived through the tsunami. IMDS drew in interfaith volunteers from the theology faculty of Duta Wacana Yogyakarta and psychology faculty from Soegiyopranoto Semarang and Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga to help design and implement the trauma response program. Meanwhile, MCC brought in psychologists Karl and Evelyn Bartsch to help prepare trauma response modules and train IMDS staff in trauma-informed programming. Upon entering Aceh, the IMDS team connected with the Al-Muayat Windan Islamic boarding school to review the trauma modules to ensure that the trauma responses IMDS would be promoting would be accepted within the Islamic culture of Aceh. Ustad Dian Nafi of the boarding school proved invaluable in this process.

After extensive consultation, IMDS, with MCC support, published a book containing culturally-rooted trauma healing modules. Entitled The Wounded Healer (Stress and Trauma Healing), this book was developed to train IMDS and other trauma response workers in Java prior to going to Aceh to offer workshops on ways for victims of the tsunami to cope with and recover from trauma as well as to help relatives and neighbors in recovering from trauma. The trauma healing model employed by IMDS included the following components:

Safe place: Providing trauma relief required building good relationships with communities traumatized by the tsunami, with good relationships fostering a sense of comfort and trust and strengthening peace within communities by nurturing bonds across lines of difference.

Trauma healing support: Therapeutic initiatives promoted psychological and spirituality recovery.

Spirituality support: Religion was understood to be an important resource in helping communities to cope with and recover from trauma. Muslim volunteers helped to ensure that IMDS’s program offered spiritual support to Acehnese victims of the tsunami that spoke to them from the depths of the Islamic tradition.

Activity support: Trauma healing involves not just the mind and spirit, but also the body. IMDS therefore organized sports, handicrafts and other activities tailored for women, girls, men and boys displaced by the tsunami that energized their bodies and spirits.

IMDS understood religion to be an important resource in helping communities to cope with and recover from trauma.

Counselor/psychologist assistance: IMDS provided specialized training to counselors and psychologists in Aceh so that they would be equipped to provide trauma healing support to thousands of Acehnese whose lives had been turned upside-down by the tsunami.

IMDS initiated its trauma healing response in Aceh in early 2005, three weeks following the tsunami. Acehnese initially responded to the trauma healing program with suspicion, viewing it as strange, given the deep sadness of loss from the tsunami, to be invited to engage in activities in which they had space to laugh, play and tell stories. Over time, however, they came to value the program, recognizing how the trauma healing activities had improved their lives, building their resilience.

Trauma healing involves not just the mind and spirit, but also the body. IMDS therefore organized sports, handicrafts and other activities tailored for women, girls, men and boys displaced by the tsunami that energized their bodies and spirits.

IMDS offered intensive services to tsunami victims who faced particularly intense challenges. One such example was an Acehnese woman whom I will call Tini. Tini felt excessive guilt for losing her one close relative, her sister. Prior to the tsunami, Tini’s sister had left home to buy cooking materials. After feeling the earthquake that led to the tsunami, Tini went out to look for her sister, but couldn’t find her. As the sea water began to rise rapidly, Tini joined others in the chaos in running to higher ground, with people falling, being stepped on and calling out for help, but with everyone paying attention to their own safety. When her sister   could not be found following the tsunami, Tini could not bear the sadness and the feeling of guilt for having survived. She struggled with feelings of isolation and had difficulty comprehending how her life could go on. At a friend’s urging, Tini attended an IMDS workshop on trauma healing and then subsequently received intensive psychological support and counseling. Over time, Tini’s spirit of life returned, and she was able to reengage with her community. Tini’s story highlights that effective disaster responses not only attend to the physical needs of persons whose lives have been devastated by war, tsunamis, hurricanes and more, but also pay attention to their psychological and spiritual needs. Over the ensuing fifteen years, trauma healing initiatives have become a standard component of MCC and IMDS humanitarian relief initiatives.

Paulus Hartono is a pastor at GKMI Solo (Gerjea Kristen Muria Indonesia, or Muria Christian Church in Indonesia) in Central Java, Indonesia. He founded and currently serves as the director of Indonesia Mennonite Diakonia Service (IMDS).


Hyndman, Jennifer. Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid after the 2004 Tsunami. Sterling, VA: Kumarian Press, 2011.

Régnier, P., Neri, B., Scuteri, S., and Miniati, S. “From Emergency Relief to Livelihood Recovery.” Disaster Prevention and Management 17/3 (2008): 410-430.

Telford, John and John Cosgrave. “The International Humanitarian System and the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunamis.” Disaster 31/1 (2007):1-28.

Learning from MCC’s relief efforts after Hurricane Mitch

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[Individual articles from the Winter 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

MCC strives to share God’s love and compassion for all through relief, development and peace. Committed to strengthening and supporting local churches and community-based organizations, MCC has focused since its inception on the importance of relationship-building in its relief responses, including fostering relationships of mutuality with local churches. That was true one hundred years ago as MCC responded to famine in the 1920s in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine) and it was true 78 years later as MCC mobilized to accompany Central American churches and other organizations as they ministered to people whose lives had been upended by Hurricane Mitch. In this article I reflect on what MCC learned from the 1998 Hurricane Mitch response.

Hurricane Mitch was the strongest storm of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, forming on October 22 and then becoming a category 5 hurricane. After being downgraded to a tropical storm, Mitch hit Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. According to United Nations data, these countries are among the most vulnerable in the world to floods and hurricanes. Mitch carved out a path of destruction in these three countries, tearing through entire communities. In Honduras, officials estimate that over 5,600 people died and 6,000 disappeared who were later declared dead. Economists, meanwhile, assess the hurricane’s monetary damage at around US$6 billion.

Before the hurricane, the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua were marred by socioeconomic conditions that increased the vulnerability of many in these countries to natural hazards like hurricanes: when Hurricane Mitch hit, the devastation it wreaked was exacerbated by these pre-existing vulnerabilities.

In reflecting back on MCC’s response to Hurricane Mitch, we can think about a before and an after. Before the hurricane, the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua were marked by socioeconomic conditions that increased the vulnerability of many in these countries to natural hazards like hurricanes: when Hurricane Mitch hit, the devastation it wreaked was exacerbated by these pre-existing vulnerabilities. For MCC and its partners, after the hurricane meant mobilizing communities to rebuild infrastructure, recover from trauma and discover new ways to live with the environment that decrease community vulnerability to natural hazards like hurricanes. Unfortunately, twenty-two years after Hurricane Mitch, many of the factors that make communities in Central American vulnerable to the destructive impact of hurricanes persist, including land tenure systems that disenfranchise small farmers. Young people under the age of 21 lack memories of Mitch: more broadly, one could argue that Central American societies have forgotten the unimaginable damage hurricanes like Mitch can do, failing to learn the lessons from Mitch.

MCC relief kits were distributed in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch struck Central America in late October 1998. Name of recipient is not available. (MCC photo/Marlisa Yoder-Bontrager)

When Hurricane Mitch made landfall, I was living at and working with SEMILLA, the Latin American Anabaptist seminary in Guatemala, codirecting the seminary’s CASAS language and cultural exchange program. We received little warning about the hurricane’s arrival, and people living in remote communities received even less, with no early warning system in place at that time for hurricanes. [One lesson from Mitch was the need to invest institutional and budgetary resources into early warning systems and disaster preparedness.] I heard about Mitch thanks to a relative attending a conference at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, who called me late one evening, asking if I could get him on a flight to Honduras, explaining that a powerful category 5 hurricane would soon descend on Honduras. Fortunately, my relative was able to fly into San Pedro Sula on one of the last flights allowed to land in Honduras. Once the hurricane’s rains arrived, the city’s airport was flooded, with water up to the second floor of the airport’s buildings. The hurricane’s swath of destruction was not limited to the airport: rains flooded practically the entire country, including communities with Mennonite churches, destroying much of the country’s infrastructure.

While I was based in Guatemala when Mitch made landfall, I had previously worked in Honduras, my home country. Specifically, I coordinated emergency relief responses for Proyecto MAMA of the Honduran Mennonite Church. In response to floods in Honduran regions such as Colonia 6 de Mayo, Chamelecon, Las Cuarenta, Guaimitas and Santa Rita, where Proyecto MAMA carried out educational initiatives in collaboration with numerous Mennonite churches, we supported congregations and communities in helping families displaced by these floods relocate to other communities, with Mennonite churches hosting displaced families and offering comfort and distributing food and non-food relief items donated by MCC. Given this previous relief work experience, I joined MCC’s Mitch emergency response in Guatemala, led by Scott and Rhoda Jantzi, MCC’s representatives in the country at the time. Our committee sought to discern how best to match the needs of marginalized Guatemalan communities with the outpouring of donations from Mennonites in Canada and the United States and the desire on the part of these churches to help in practical ways.

Since Hurricane Mitch, Anabaptist churches in Central America have greater commitment to developing proactive responses to emergencies and creating local emergency committees that prepare for such disasters.

Over the course of the coming months and years, MCC and its Guatemalan partners distributed food, blankets and water and offered medical care and emergency shelter. This first emergency stage then gave way to reconstruction, including building and rebuilding homes in Guatemala City and Chiuimila and discerning with communities what the rehabilitation of economic and community life would look like in the long term. MCC programs in Central America also welcomed work-and-learn teams from the U.S. and Canada, which joined local communities in reconstruction work: my wife, Lizette, and I joined one of these work-and-learn teams in the Sabillon Cruz community in Chamelecon, Honduras.

MCC’s Hurricane Mitch response included immediate and longer-term elements. In the immediate aftermath of Mitch, many families did not have food for many days due to the loss of their crops and food stores reserves and because of difficulty in accessing markets (and in food getting to markets). Over the ensuing weeks and months, illness spread across the hurricane-ravaged communities, thanks to water pollution and spoiled food. In the longer-term, families and communities were confronted with the need to rebuild their lives, even as they mourned the loss of loved ones and coped with post-traumatic stress symptoms that were not always diagnosed as such. MCC joined its partners in seeking to respond to these multi-faceted needs.

What did MCC and its partners, including Central American Mennonite churches, learn from the Hurricane Mitch response? Honduran Mennonite pastor Oscar Dueñas’ recollections point to some key lessons:

I was in my last year as a pastor in the Central Mennonite Church in San Pedro Sula, when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras. We immediately began to get involved in relief work, contacting and providing help to communities with Mennonite churches and to nearby communities to identify emergency needs and make plans for responding to them…

I was hired by CASM (Mennonite Social Action Commission) as the person in charge of organizing the distribution of the material aid CASM had received from MCC and of relief items that CASM had purchased using funds from MCC and other sources. We managed, planned and coordinated the distribution of humanitarian aid— first in response to immediate needs, and then as part of food-for-work projects in which recipients assisted with individual home reconstruction and with communal cleaning and rehabilitation initiatives. We learned from this response how important solidarity, planning and coordination with local communities are.

Throughout the response, we also felt the support of external organizations like MCC, support to respond to people’s priority needs. While we appreciated the donation of material aid and of money for local purchase of humanitarian aid, we even more welcomed work-and- learn teams not only from the U.S. and Canada but also from Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia: these work-and-learn teams that accompanied us in the reconstruction process showed us that we were not alone.

Delsia Florez received an MCC relief kit after Hurricane Mitch struck Nicaragua and Honduras in late October 1998. Florez is pictured at her home in San Jeronimo, Nicaragua in 1999, with her children (from left) Preling Enriques, Noremi Enriques and Felixito Enriques (standing). MCC distributed relief kits and food to hurricane victims. (MCC photo/TonySiemens)

MCC began with an emergency relief response in southern Russia in the early 1920s that worked with Mennonites there in meeting the basic needs not only of Mennonites, but also of others facing famine. Seventy-eight years later, MCC joined Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches and other partners in Central America in assisting victims of Hurricane Mitch, both members of Anabaptist churches and beyond—MCC’s partners included the Honduran Mennonite Church and its Proyecto MAMA project (today ACEM), CASM, Amor Viviente Choluteca, CADE, PRODEM, ADP and the Brethren in Christ church. MCC ended up sending over 50,000 relief buckets for distribution through these partners. Meanwhile, MCC organized more than 75 work-and-learn teams from Canada and the United States who went to Honduras and Nicaragua to accompany communities in the reconstruction effort.

As its work wound down, MCC commissioned an evaluation of its Hurricane Mitch response and highlighted multiple lessons.

First, MCC learned that Hurricane Mitch was not simply a “natural” disaster but was in fact a social and economic disaster. “The impact on people of this natural disaster depends much on the social and economic condition in which they lived,” the evaluation report observed, explaining that the conjunction of natural hazards and social and economic vulnerability compounded risks communities faced. MCC learned the importance of working with churches and community-based organizations in developing disaster preparedness plans.

Second, we learned that while MCC itself is not equipped to be a first-responder organization, churches and other local organizations can be well-positioned to provide immediate assistance, given their knowledge of local community contexts. Commitment to working through partnership, meanwhile, underscored the importance of supporting these local partners in developing disaster preparedness plans.

Finally, the Hurricane Mitch response highlighted a new role for churches in emergency response. “Now more than ever, the Church in general and specifically Christian base organizations are seen as actors of social change,” the evaluation report observed. Since Hurricane Mitch, Anabaptist churches in Central America have greater commitment to developing proactive responses to emergencies and creating local emergency committees that prepare for such disasters.

César Eduardo Flores Ventura is MCC Area Director for Central America and Haiti.


Barrios, Roberto E. Governing Affect: Neoliberalism and Disaster Reconstruction. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.

Ensor, Marisa O. The Legacy of Hurricane Mitch:Lessons from Post-Disaster Reconstruction in Honduras. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2009.