A year after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, communities continue to rebuild their lives and be better prepared for future disasters.
A line of women carry stones in their hands and on their heads as they descend into a hillside ravine in southern Haiti. They bring the stones so their community can build barriers that will slow the flow of water through this green valley and prevent the erosion of the land that is important to this rural farming community.
This is a team of women and men from vulnerable communities in one of three departments on Haiti’s southern peninsula that were hit by a destructive 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14 2021. Over 2,200 people died in the disaster and over 137,000 homes were destroyed or damaged along with hospitals, schools and major transport infrastructure including roads and bridges.
Just down the valley, another crew of about 36 people are hard at work clearing the road as part of a rehabilitation program. They are paid around 500 Haitian gourdes (around $5) for a 4-5 hour day and will spend 20 days working to improve their community.
“The money I earn helps me pay for food, school and other household needs,” says Tesse Medgune. “Many families lost their livelihoods due to the earthquake, so it helps us survive.”
The rehabilitation works on the road side of the hill and valley are supported by the World Food Program (WFP) and are part of a Haitian government effort to improve the resilience of vulnerable people threatened by natural disasters. Many of these people also receive support to improve food production activities and their nutrition.
There are 16 similar teams in this immediate area and many more in Haiti’s southern peninsula where the earthquake caused the most damage.
“The money people have earned is important in the short term to get them through the difficult post-earthquake period,” says WFP’s Sophia Toussaint, “but it’s also crucial for their longer-term future. Protecting the hill stops soil erosion and means farmers are less likely to lose their crops in a natural disaster; having a good road makes it easier to get produce to market,” she adds. “It also means that aid can be delivered more efficiently and people can get to hospital if there is another earthquake.”
Jerry Chandler is the director general of Haiti’s civil protection agency. “We have worked closely with our international partners, including the UN, to ensure that our response to disasters is more robust. So we plan for the possibility of another disaster, but we also ensure that the impact is mitigated.
One year after the earthquake, the United Nations continues to support communities in the three most affected departments, Grand Anse, Nippes and Sud. Some 26,200 people have fled their uninhabitable homes and the majority have been accommodated in 85 temporary displacement sites.
A majority have now returned home, including Roslaine Jeantine and her three sons. The roof of her small house in the commune of Laurent, just outside the town of Les Cayes, collapsed in the earthquake injuring her eldest son’s leg, but the walls remained in place. She was encouraged to return home with the help of a roof construction kit provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“I sold my goat to pay two carpenters to install my new roof,” says Roslaine Jeantine. “I always feel panicked when I hear a loud noise, thinking it could be another earthquake, but I know this roof is well made and will protect me and my family from the elements. .”
IOM has distributed around 100 kits to Laurent, which include everything a family needs to build a roof; wood, tin foil, nails and more. A total of some 500 have been distributed across the earthquake-affected area to the most vulnerable families.
“These roofs are important not only because they provide shelter,” says IOM’s Jean Gardy Saint Juste, “they also allow families to make their own decisions about how to repair their homes and thus rebuild their lives. . In this sense, they create their own resilience to future disasters with a little support from IOM.
As houses are rebuilt roof by roof and roads are repaired stone by stone, UN agencies are still working in all three departments to provide much needed services, but also to create space for communities to make decisions about the best way to protect yourself in the event of another earthquake.
In 2022, WFP’s resilience programs in Haiti are supported by Switzerland, Canada, South Korea (KOICA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID/BHA).
United Nations entities involved in this initiative
The International Organization for Migration
Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator
world food program