Saturday 12 January 2013 marks a sombre milestone; three years on from the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti, killing an estimated 220,000 people and leaving more than 1 million homeless.
Since that time, the country has faced numerous other challenges, including a cholera outbreak, the impact of subsequent disasters (most notably Hurricane Sandy in October 2012) and political unrest.
Whilst some positive progress has been made over the past three years, daily life for many of those affected by the disaster remains a struggle.
An estimated 350,000 to 390,000 people are still living in informal camps and settlements, with little hope of a permanent home. Hundreds of thousands still lack access to basic services such as clean water and medical care.
ActionAid was already working in Haiti before January 2010. When the earthquake struck, we were quick to respond, working with local partner organisations and affected communities to provide life-saving support – food, water and plastic sheeting for shelter – to tens of thousands of people in camps in and around Port-au-Prince.
Our international fundraising appeal launched immediately, raising an astonishing $13 million for our three year response to the disaster. These funds have enabled us to support more than 200,000 people in and around Port-au-Prince, as well as areas further afield, to start rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
- In the first year of our response we supported nearly 140,000 people with vital food packages, hygiene and kitchen kits, and emergency shelter material.
- We distributed 3,500 school kits to the most vulnerable children, to help them continue or get back into education. We also built two schools (one in the process of being completed) catering for children affected by the earthquake, and added a further four classrooms each to an additional two schools.
- We supported thousands of people through cash-for-work schemes, which pay community members a daily wage for work on projects such as clearing rubble, building terraces to promote soil conservation, and repairing roads and drainage canals. This has helped more than 5,500 families start to get back on their feet.
- Vocational training projects supported people – particularly young adults – to learn a trade – including becoming electricians, plumbers and chefs - and so start earning an income.
- To help build communities’ resilience to future disasters, we trained people on what to do in the event of an emergency, and how to protect themselves and their property. Our cash for work programmes also focused on reducing people’s vulnerability to hazards such as drought – for example engaging people in clearing rubble from water run-off channels so that land does not flood during heavy rains.
- To help people overcome the emotional and psychological impact of the earthquake, we provided five centres where people could gather to share their experiences and rediscover hope for the future – a vital step in the recovery process. Watch a film of how 3 year old Cherlandine learnt to smile again.
- In Roseaux, in the Grande Anse department, a project to install 12 grinding mills has benefitted more than 3,000 families, meaning they no longer have to walk for up to 8 hours to process their corn for sale.
- In late 2012, we began construction of 160 semi-permanent homes in the municipality of Gressier, Port-au-Prince, to house the some of the most vulnerable families left homeless by the disaster.
- We responded to the cholera crisis by distributing hygiene kits containing water purification tablets, soap and other items to serve nearly 70,000 people. And we provided training for local partners and communities on good hygiene and sanitation practices to help reduce the spread of the disease. When Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, we provided an additional 1,580 cholera kits to vulnerable families, along with other essentials such as cooking utensils and tarpaulins for shelter.
Lobbying for land
In 2011 we began a campaign on land rights advocacy, working with local people and partner organisations to secure access to land and to ensure that funds for reconstruction are spent in an accountable manner.
The initiative, called “Je Nan Je” (meaning "Eye to Eye"), focuses on supporting people to gain access to affordable, safe, longer-term housing, women’s access to land and housing, decentralized planning and land reform.
We have the right to a decent life, which implies a safe place to live. We are the only ones in charge of our destiny. We have the responsibility to change our living conditions by advocating to the government to change policies and reduce the imbalances in the society. We will continue pressuring authorities to have more results and make our voices heard.
Marie Charles Juste Luce, a resident of Mariani camp and member of the Je nan Je campaign.
To mark two years since the disaster, 10,000 people marched through the centre of Port au Prince on Wednesday 11 January 2012 to demand access to land and adequate housing. The march, organised by the Je nan Je campaign and supported by ActionAid, presented a charter of demands to the Haitian parliament.
Since then, the campaign has been successful in securing the formation of a bi-cameral assembly - comprised of senators and deputies from the Haitian parliament - who are briefed to create laws on land and housing rights in favor of the most vulnerable.
ActionAid's official emergency response programme in Haiti has now concluded, but our work with those affected continues through our long-term development programmes. Our new strategy in Haiti, covering 2013-2017, focuses on building people’s resilience to disaster and other shocks, helping ensure communities are less vulnerable to future emergencies.
The Je nan Je campaign will also feature as a core component of our ongoing interventions. Working alongside Haitian grassroots organisations and people affected by the earthquake, we’ll continue to lobby for their voices to be heard in the important discussions that shape Haiti’s recovery, particularly those relating to the construction of safe and affordable housing.
Our work in Haiti has been made possibly through the generous support of thousands of people – people just like you.
As we approach the three year milestone, this is the best opportunity that I have to thank all of our donors by saying “Mesye Dam, chapo ba” (‘I take my hat off to you’),
says Jean–Claude Fignolé, Director of ActionAid Haiti.
"Without your support, our work with 200,000 of Haiti's poorest people would have been impossible during these difficult three years. Thank you for your accompaniment from the earthquake in 2010 through all the tropical storms in between and most recently for your support after Hurricane Sandy. We continue to count on people and institutions like you to strengthen the solidarity chain to build a new Haiti."