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On 12th January of 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which decimated Port-au-Prince, the capital, and caused a humanitarian crisis throughout the country.
Today, 10 years later, the Caribbean country remains the poorest in the America continent, with 1.2 million people in food emergencies (phase 4), the last stage before famine according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). The current context still requires an international humanitarian response, as Cédric Piriou, Country Director of Action Against Hunger since 2017 but present in Haiti within ACF since 2010, points out: “The drastic decrease in aid since 2015 has had a negative impact on the recovery of the Haitian economy, when we are in a crucial phase for reconstruction. In addition, political instability and social unrest are hampering the country’s reconstruction and recovery process”.
“The earthquake destroyed 80% of the public buildings of the Haitian administration and cost the lives of many of the country’s administrators, weakening the capacity of public institutions to revive the economy,” said Piriou.
Another consequence of the natural disaster that has become a social problem has been migration from the countryside to the capital. Although Port-au-Prince emptied part of it inhabitants immediately after the earthquake, “the Capitale has already almost twice as many inhabitants as 2010, as the concentration of reconstruction projects has accentuated the arrival of a continuous flow of rural migrants. These people have been concentrated in shanty towns and areas lacking decent living conditions, such as the settlements on the steep slopes of Morne l’Hôpital, which overlooks the capital,” says the Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Haiti.
After a first phase lasting from 2010 to 2013, where the emergency humanitarian response made it possible to cover the basic and urgent needs of the affected population, development programmes began to be implemented between 2013 and 2015. These projects were aimed to improve the resilience of those who were directly or indirectly affected by the earthquake.
Action Against Hunger supported during this period structural programs in the departments of l’Artibonite and Nord-Ouest. Multi-year projects have promoted the construction of a drinking water network and the promotion of local agricultural products. In addition, in consortium with other NGOs and in collaboration with local authorities, the Kore Lavi programme was implemented between 2013 & 2018, with the aim of reducing food insecurity and preventing child malnutrition at the same time,” explains Piriou. “The programme was implemented in 5 of the country’s 10 departments, and had a direct impact on more than 18,000 households through the provision of food vouchers; and on more than 200,000 people through medical and nutritional care, since nutritional degradation is the result of chronic food crises,” explains the Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Haiti.
Haiti has not stopped facing disasters over the last 10 years, such as cyclones in 2012 and 2016, droughts in 2013-14, a new earthquake in 2018 or the cholera epidemic in 2010. In this regard, Action Against Hunger is coordinating cholera eradication programmes in two areas of Haiti where the outbreak has hit hardest. Cholera first appeared in Haiti in 2010, only a few months after the devastating earthquake, and the last confirmed case was in February 2019. But recent unrest could complicate prevention efforts, as Cedric Piriou warns: “Political instability and violence are hampering humanitarian access.
Many challenges remain for Haitian society on a daily basis, such as reviving the economic system and strengthening state structures. Other challenge is managing the population density living in camps or informal settlements. Piriou describes that “an example is the water and sanitation network has been partially restored, but it has not kept pace with the increase in the population of the capital, especially in the slums. And in the provinces, the level of drinking water coverage is still very low”.
The number of people who lost their lives in the earthquake is estimated around 220,000; the number of injuries exceeded 300,000 and more than 1.5 million people were left homeless. The impact of this disaster and the humanitarian problems that followed have highlighted “the difficulty of intervening in a major disaster in a small area, which requires strong coordination. In addition, it is necessary to define a strategy that guarantees the continuity of emergency and recovery activities” points out the Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Haiti. For him, “the participation of national, departmental and local institutions must be encouraged; and the support of local NGOs must be systematized to strengthen their competencies in the implementation and follow-up of activities, which offers greater guarantees for consolidating the necessary links between reconstruction and recovery”.
· Two cyclones, several droughts and cholera epidemics, a new earthquake (2018), poverty, violence and a huge demographic challenge make the transition from emergency to development difficult for the poorest country in the Northern hemisphere.
· Ten years after the earthquake that devastated Haiti and cost 220 000 lives and an economic recession of 5% of its GDP, the Caribbean country continues to struggle to recover the social, political and economic fabric and to respond to the needs of an impoverished population.
· Action Against Hunger, based in the country since 1985, was one of the main humanitarian actors following the 2010 disaster. We are now working to improve the livelihoods and resilience of affected communities.
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