The Latest On Developments In Haiti

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LAS VEGAS-Representatives of credit unions in nearly 60 countries will be meeting here this week, but one country is likely to get more attention than any other: Haiti.

The devastating earthquake in January destroyed many of the country's credit unions, especially in the capital of Port Au Prince. Making presentations related to Haiti when the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and CUNA co-host the 1 Credit Union Conference this week will be WOCCU CEO Pete Crear and director of the World Council's Haiti Project, Greta Greathouse.

"Our concern is that this story is off the front page," said Crear, who visited Haiti with a credit union delegation earlier this year and witnessed, among other things, tens of thousands of people living in tents that are a "disaster waiting to happen" when a hurricane strikes.

"We're going to weave Haiti in and out of the meeting," explained Crear. "The number of credit unions in Haiti is going to shrink and shrink dramatically."Prior to the earthquake approximately 220 CUs operated in Haiti; half of those are gone already, said Crear. WOCCU is focused on four areas:

1. Providing funds to help CUs repair their buildings, where possible. Some CUs are currently operating from tents in their former parking lots.

2. Providing more and heavier tents to CU employees and members. Some 110 tents have been provided by WOCCU to date, with approximately 50 more on the way.

3. Working with US AID to recognize the earthquake must change the focus of the Haiti Project, which predates the disaster. Many Haitian CUs are facing 90% delinquency rates and much of the collateral is gone.

4. Finding ways to recreate liquidity. Canada's Desjardins movement, which has been providing assistance in Haiti for more than a decade, is partnering with U.S. CUs and WOCCU to create at least $1 million in funding to provide liquidity so that as the economy does recover, credit union don't just exist but can make loans.

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