Rebuilding Haiti: The Road to Recovery from the Earthquake |

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PAM/Alexis Masciarelli

The UN estimates that around 800,000 people were affected by the earthquake.

What happened?

The 7.2 magnitude earthquake on August 14, 2021 struck the southwest of this Caribbean island nation, causing widespread destruction in predominantly rural areas. In addition to the dead and injured, thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed and key infrastructure including schools, hospitals, roads and bridges were destroyed, disrupting key services, transport, agriculture and trade. The UN says around 800,000 people have been affected in one way or another; including 300,000 children whose education has been interrupted.


The World Food Program has stepped up food distribution in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

© PAM/Alexis Masciarelli

The World Food Program has stepped up food distribution in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

What was the response to the earthquake?

Immediately after the earthquake, the Government, with the support of the United Nations and others, stepped in to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected. The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, played a central role in coordinating the response. The International Organization for Migration has provided temporary shelter for people who have lost their homes, food and other belongings so that people can get by. The provision of hot meals to schoolchildren by the World Food Program has been increased to encourage children whose schools were not destroyed to continue attending classes. About 60 health facilities were also destroyed, so emergency services were supported by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA and UNICEF. Pregnant women were cared for and often gave birth in tents.

Six months after the earthquake, Haiti has moved beyond the immediate emergency and is now considering long-term recovery and reconstruction. In November the government released an assessment of how much money it needs to rebuild and recover; it amounts to almost 2 billion dollars. Just over three-quarters of that, or about $1.5 billion, will go to revitalizing social services, including housing, health, education and food security programs. The rest will be spent on boosting agriculture, trade and industry as well as repairing key infrastructure. Spending on environmental programs has also been targeted.


The 2010 earthquake caused destruction in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.  (to file)

MINUSTAH

The 2010 earthquake caused destruction in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. (to file)

What lessons have been learned from natural disasters?

Haiti is of course no stranger to natural disasters and lessons have been learned from the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010 in which an estimated 220,000 people died, mostly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas. . The main lesson to be learned from this catastrophic event and the response effort that followed is that national leadership is crucial.

In 2010, the government was directly affected by the disaster and was ill-equipped and ill-prepared to coordinate the emergency response on such a large scale, and as a result, it was sidelined by the international community.

Haiti also needs to do better in terms of introducing more robust disaster risk reduction measures.


Thousands of people have been displaced after tens of thousands of homes collapsed or were damaged.

IOM/Monica Chiriac

Thousands of people have been displaced after tens of thousands of homes collapsed or were damaged.

What other crises is Haiti facing?

The 2021 earthquake struck as Haiti faced multiple economic, political, security, humanitarian and development crises. The country has high levels of poverty and ranks 170 out of 189 countries in the world in the United Nations Development Program’s 2020 Human Development Report. The economy is in dire straits, not helped by a recent blockade of gasoline deliveries by armed gangs that nearly brought the country to a standstill. Insecurity, including kidnappings, is rife with gangs controlling many neighborhoods in the capital, Port-au-Prince. In July 2021, the president was assassinated while at home and an investigation into his death continues.

On top of all this, Haiti faces the ongoing threat of COVID-19.


Children in rural areas of Haiti often contribute to family farming activities.

© UNICEF

Children in rural areas of Haiti often contribute to family farming activities.

How can Haiti recover from this latest setback?

On February 16, the government organizes an international conference in Port-au-Prince during which it hopes to raise at least 1.6 billion dollars out of the 2 billion needed to put the country back on track after the earthquake.

Many donor countries around the world are grappling with the additional financial burden the pandemic has placed on their resources. Moreover, Haiti is, in reality, in competition for funds with other crises in the world, such as Afghanistan and the Ethiopian region, Tigray. One of Haiti’s strengths may be its huge diaspora, particularly in the United States, which it is hoped will help the fundraising effort. US-based philanthropies are also targeted.

The international community in Haiti warns that if the country does not get the aid it needs, its recovery, development and ability to withstand further natural disasters will all be negatively affected.


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