Story by Joan Nduta, Regional Content Marketing Officer, and John Otieno, Regional Advocacy Officer
On August 14, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, devastating the southern areas, particularly the Grand’Anse, Nippes, and Sud regions. The quake rocked the country, causing hospitals, schools, and homes to collapse, claiming thousands of lives, and leaving communities in crisis.
"We have seen total desolation, almost every house destroyed, roads destroyed, mountains falling in the road and blocking the way. Access to humanitarian aid is key. We need to continue our response to prevent the situation from worsening," Roseval Supreme, Action Against Hunger's Country Director in Haiti, reported in the days following the earthquake. Safe travel on the single access road to the southern regions of the country remains challenging.
Today, a month later, the search and rescue missions have been completed. According to the final report from Haiti’s General Directorate of Civil Protection, 2,248 people were killed in the earthquake and 329 people are still missing. UNICEF estimates that the powerful earthquake impacted 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children.
The damage of the earthquake goes beyond the physical: Action Against Hunger’s assessments show that many people are suffering emotionally and mentally, too. The humanitarian situation is complex and fragile as water-borne illnesses are increasing while health services remain limited. In the hardest-hit communities, most families remain homeless and have taken refuge with their neighbors in 26 camps. The most vulnerable people, including the elderly, pregnant women, and new mothers, have limited access to healthcare, food, and other necessities.
Action Against Hunger’s Response
With support from generous donors, including the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Action Against Hunger is responding to this humanitarian crisis. Our teams are providing thousands of families with mental health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition services.
Providing Psychosocial Support
The psychological toll of the earthquake has been immense, particularly for frontline responders, people who lost family members, and other who experienced the trauma of the 2010 earthquake. To meet community mental health needs, psychosocial training is urgently needed for Haitian Red Cross volunteers, first responders, and community health workers to support with screening and referral of people in need of counselling and other care.
Action Against Hunger is scaling up to six communities to respond to psychological needs. So far, 276 people, including community members, patients in hospitals and health centers, and frontline staff, have received trauma counselling and mental health support.
Addressing Health, Nutrition, and Food Needs
Across the three hardest-hit regions, the earthquake impacted 59 health centers, or more than two-thirds of the facilities providing health services. In addition to collapsed and damaged buildings, there are not enough qualified medical personnel, equipment or supplies to meet the health needs of the population.
Local health authorities, including the Ministry of Health, needed resources to restore their capacity to organize and respond to reestablish health services. Action Against Hunger stepped in to help, providing equipment key to coordination and communications, such as computers and internet routers. Our teams have also evaluated 15 health centers in Cavaillon, Saint-Louis du, Sud, Cayes, and Camp Perrin areas, which included assessments of structures, psychological needs of staff, and capacity to respond to malnutrition.
We have also provided supplies to a local community canteen – a place where people can get a meal and stock up on basic goods – and distributed fortified biscuits to prevent malnutrition among children under five. Soon, we will be working with the local authorities and our partners to conduct a nutrition assessment to better understand the longer-term impacts this disaster has had on hunger and malnutrition.
Improving Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
Water pipes and the primary irrigation system in the southern region were severely damaged by the earthquake, limiting access to clean water and safe sanitation, as well as water needed for farming. Water networks and hydro-agricultural structures urgently need repairs to protect crops and food supplies and to support the long-term agricultural recovery in the region.
Action Against Hunger’s teams are distributing hygiene kits, tarpaulins for temporary shelters, and clean drinking water and hosting education sessions on healthy hygiene to reduce the risk of illness. Through this work, we will support 5,478 families.
Advocating for More Funds for Response and Recovery
With hundreds of thousands of people still in need of assistance, both now and in the longer-term, more funds are urgently needed to meet growing community needs. The earthquake hit Haiti’s “breadbasket” regions and – without sufficient funding – a hunger crisis is looming.
In our response, Action Against Hunger aims to provide support to 300,000 of the most vulnerable people. Additionally, we call for:
- Increased funding to urgently provide support to more than 800,000 people affected by the earthquake, with water, sanitation, hygiene, healthcare, nutrition, food, protection, mental health support, and early recovery. Funding should be swift and flexible to enable a fast and effective response in the midst of multiple crises.
- Responses that prioritize the nutrition, water, sanitation, and psychosocial support needs of the most vulnerable people, including children under five, the elderly, girls and young women, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and immigrants.
- Emergency approaches that ensure a gender-sensitive humanitarian response and emphasize support for the specific needs of women and girls, including responding to increasing levels of sexual and gender-based violence and other forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse that may arise due to displacement.
- Action now that helps communities prepare for future disasters and ensures faster recoveries to save lives and secure livelihoods.
Action Against Hunger has run nutrition, water, and sanitation programs – leading the fight to eradicate cholera – in Haiti since 1985. More than 99 percent of our staff in the country is Haitian. Donate now to support our emergency relief efforts in Haiti >>
For more information, please contact Emily Tyree at email@example.com.