Haiti earthquake: three years on

10 Jan 2013   |   Blog   |   Haiti   |   Long-term Development

Tags:  earthquake, Emergency, Haiti, Emergency relief   |   2 comments

Betty Jean has started a small laundry business.

On 12 January 2010, Haiti was rocked by its strongest earthquake in 200 years. The impact on Haitian lives and livelihoods was – and still is – staggering.

Caritas Australia raised $4.3 million to help those communities affected. The international Caritas network has made a significant impact through our immediate and long-term emergency response. Find out how we are tracking, three years on.

When an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck just a few miles outside the capital of Port-au-Prince on 12 January 2010; homes, schools, businesses and a myriad of other structures crumbled, government came to a halt, and the security situation deteriorated. The Haitian Government reported over 200,000 lives lost. Those who survived were left traumatised.

The Caritas network including Caritas Australia, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Cordaid (Netherlands), The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), Caritas Haiti, Caritas Port-au-Prince and Caritas Switzerland applied a broad response to the disaster and are still working to support those communities affected by the earthquake.

As Caritas Australia doesn’t have an operational presence in Haiti, we are working through the strength of our Caritas partners who have worked in Haiti for many years. When a disaster like the Haitian earthquake occurs, Caritas’ immediate and long-term response exemplifies the power of our collaborative approach.

Initially, Caritas Australia provided funds to meet emergency needs such as cooking kits, food and cash for work; however our support now extends to more long-term sustainable activities.

In 2010, our very successful Haiti Earthquake Appeal raised $4.3 million. To determine how best to allocate these funds, we put a 3-5 year plan in place. This is why, three years later, Caritas Australia is still supporting affected communities.

Here are some of the long-term sustainable activities that we are financially supporting, and an overview of the significant achievements.

Micro and Small Enterprise Development & Water, Health and Sanitation

Run by our US counterpart, CRS, the Community Resettlement and Recovery Program is a large-scale recovery program. With a budget of US$26,310,506, assistance is being delivered over a 30-month period and aims to help at least 25,000 families resettle back into communities through activities such as housing reconstruction, clean water and hygiene promotion, community infrastructure (eg drains), and the rebuilding of livelihoods (eg through small business grants).

Achievements so far:

  • 320 households have been supported through a six month pilot project to initiate or restart pre-earthquake micro and small businesses, and spur sustainable economic opportunities. Support to this initiative is ongoing and aims to benefit an additional 6,300 individuals.
  • The Water, Sanitation and Health project will directly reach a minimum of 25,000 earthquake affected families in five Port-au-Prince urban neighbourhoods. To date, the project has:
      1. Rehabilitated 347 latrines (toilets) for vulnerable households;
      2. Installed 2,146 rain water catchments systems with CRS built transitional shelters; and
      3. Conducted hygiene training in 1,226 households. 

Shelter and Housing Reconstruction

Caritas Australia has supported Cordaid (Netherlands), CAFOD (UK), Caritas Port-au-Prince and Caritas Switzerland to build permanent and transitional shelters.

Achievements so far:

  • 120 transitional shelters for 144 families have been built in the rural communes of Leogane and Grand Goave (Cordaid);
  • 40 houses have been reconstructed; 25 of which were accompanied by Build Change, an organisation that designs earthquake-resistant house training. An additional 50 houses are planned for the same area of Duval, Port-au-Prince (Caritas Port-au-Prince in partnership with CAFOD);
  • 100 earthquake and hurricane resistant permanent houses have been sustainably reconstructed in Petit Boucan, Gressier (Caritas Switzerland).

Both CAFOD and Cordaid have commissioned evaluations to review the appropriateness and quality of their shelter construction. Cordaid commissioned an evaluation team who analysed the effectiveness, appropriateness, efficiency and impact of the program and concluded that Cordaid successfully implemented a highly effective shelter program, particularly in the rural area of Leogane. The CAFOD-commissioned Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) evaluation is yet to be finalised.

People walking with goats

Agricultural Livelihoods

Food insecurity is an ongoing issue in Haiti. Exacerbated by the earthquake, rising food prices also continue to create challenges. We supported Caritas Czech Republic's agricultural livelihoods project in Leogane, a town to the west of Port-au-Prince and one of the areas most affected by the earthquake. This project aims to build the capacity of local farmers and institutions so they can develop local livelihoods and increase their resilience and preparedness in the event of future disasters.

Achievements so far: 

  • 2,000 beneficiaries (farmers and livestock breeders) have participated in agriculture and livestock breeding;
  • 200 beneficiaries have participated in the development of small businesses;
  • Training in sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry and small business was provided to local communities and community based organisations; 
  • Nine people were trained in animal health and now serve the community as assistant veterinarians.

Capacity Building

The devastation created by the earthquake meant that our local partners in Haiti were overwhelmed by the needs of those affected. Caritas Australia is supporting Caritas Haiti through a capacity building project which aims to strengthen the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit, and Program Risk Management and Disaster sectors of the National Bureau of Caritas Haiti. In this way Caritas Australia is supporting efforts to increase the capacity and accountability of Haitian institutions.

Achievements so far:

  • Caritas Haiti is receiving ongoing support from six different Caritas agencies; efforts will be made to bring all these agencies together to consolidate a strategic capacity building program for Caritas Haiti and the local Caritas/Dioceses.
  • Caritas Haiti and 10 Caritas Dioceses have contingency plans in place; these are well linked with the Haitian Government’s contingency plans.

While Caritas Australia has supported a number of projects and partners across Haiti, the Caritas Internationalis network response has also been far reaching. By donating to Caritas Australia’s Emergency Response Fund you can help provide immediate humanitarian relief whenever and wherever disaster strikes around the world. 

See also the following links on the Haiti response from our international network: 

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  • name withheld

    “yep sounds like you really sorted that situation out in haiti... you really should go there and see what a disgrace the aid response has been”

  • Caritas Australia team

    “Monitoring of progress is an important part of our work, and as such, Caritas Australia visits Haiti at least once a year, and our partners on the ground regularly monitor Caritas Australia funded projects. Three years on, the majority of people have been moved from camps into transitional or permanent homes. Caritas Australia recognises that the humanitarian response in Haiti has faced major challenges and could have been better coordinated by both the government and international NGO sectors. One of the major criticisms is that international NGOs bypassed existing Haitian government and civil society. The Caritas network has worked hard to ensure that they are working closely through national networks, such as in the capacity building support that Caritas Australia is providing to the National Caritas in Haiti. The Caritas network is also focused on engaging those receiving assistance so that they are not ‘passive beneficiaries’, but rather empowered to bring about change themselves. Our partners CRS (Catholic Relief Services (Caritas USA)) ensure people receiving assistance are empowered to take on responsibility for their own construction and provide them with the necessary technical assistance. This is in line with the objectives of the Government of Haiti and Interim Haiti Recovery Commission’s Rebuild Strategy. The CRS long term reconstruction program, and others like it, also demonstrate that the Caritas network not only provides immediate humanitarian assistance, but works closely through national partners to develop sustainable long term reconstruction projects. ”