On August 14, 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, hitting the greater southern part of the island and causing the greatest losses in the departments of Grande Anse, South and Nippes.
As of 9 am on August 17, the official reported death toll was 1,419 and hundreds more remained missing. The quake toppled buildings and destroyed roads, schools, health clinics and other public infrastructure. Local hospitals have been overwhelmed.
The earthquake is the latest blow for a country that has experienced worsening political and economic instability in recent years. The capital city, Port-au-Prince, has seen increasing violence and criminal activity.
The volatile security situation has cut off supplies of food, goods and fuel and displaced more than 19,000 people from their homes. Even before the quake, approximately 4.4 million people were already in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation has contributed to a sharp increase in gender-based violence. Rape and sexual violence has doubled, by some estimates, particularly in the capital and southern areas of the country.
Haiti is contending with a worsening COVID-19 outbreak that has overwhelmed the country’s fragile health infrastructure. COVID-19 vaccines are largely unavailable, and people in rural areas have very limited access to health care of any kind.
With so many Haitians, especially women and children, facing the combined effects of unrest, violence, economic crisis, pandemic – and now a deadly earthquake – there is a critical need for assistance.
CARE has launched an earthquake relief effort on top of our ongoing work to support people affected by the recent unrest and food crisis. CARE is among the first organisations to conduct needs assessments in quake-affected Grande Anse department, building on our ongoing recovery and development programs.
People are reporting that they most urgently need tents and other shelter materials, blankets, sleeping mats, food, water, hygiene kits, first aid kits and COVID-19 prevention supplies, including masks, soap and hand sanitizer. We are moving stocks of humanitarian supplies (including water bladders, water purification tablets and tents) from Port-au-Prince to affected areas.
Our initial response will focus on current programme areas in Grand Anse. Additional responses in Les Cayes or Nippes will depend on further needs assessments and likely would be supported through partnerships, rather than a direct CARE response.
Lora Wuennenberg, CARE Haiti interim country director, said:
We are continuing to carry out assessments and have begun distributing core relief items, but many of the areas affected are logistically very challenging to reach so we are not likely to know the full impact of earthquake for days to come. We know from past experience both in Haiti and other emergencies that women and girls are often the worst affected by these types of natural disasters, facing compounding stresses and higher threats of violence. CARE will be undertaking an assessment of the specific needs of women and girls and making sure it takes their specific concerns and voices into account in the response we mount."
CARE will also address food security and protection needs, especially for women and girls. These activities could include (to be confirmed based on the assessments):
- Cash and voucher assistance
- Supplementary food for infants, toddlers, and children
- Supplementary food for pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Safe spaces for girls and women
CARE works in four of Haiti’s ten departments, where we implement food security and resilience programs – most of whose participants have been affected by the economic crisis. In our longer-term response, we also seek to build and leverage resources from these existing projects to respond to the needs of women who are most vulnerable in the current security climate.
While the world’s headlines have reported the recent earthquake and the assassination of President Moïse, the massive humanitarian implications of the country’s interrelated crises have been neglected. Thanks to CARE’s existing infrastructure, staff and initial seed funds, we are well placed to scale up our response to these critical needs.