All our possessions are underground now

UNICEF has office in the south with staff already on the ground making assessment to prioritize urgent needs and provide assistance to affected populations.

Ndiaga Seck

In the early hours of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook southwestern Haiti on 14 August 2021 with major impact in South, Nippes and Grand’Anse departments, UNICEF teams deployed on the ground to reach the affected populations. Many left their damaged or destroyed houses to sleep outside in fear of aftershocks when Tropical Depression Grace wreaked havoc two days later. Essential emergency supplies such tarps, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. were most welcome.

Camp Perrin, 26 August 2021 - Cherestale Thérèse, 67, is from in Camp Perrin, near Les Cayes. The mother of three and grandmother of five lost almost everything when the earthquake hit southern Haiti on 14 August 2021. Today, she comes to receive emergency supplies distributed by WFP, OIM and UNICEF. She is grateful to those who help her recover. “Our gratitude is beyond measure... We thank them and ask them to continue, because we have no cattle, no goats, no pigs ... We ask them to come and see where we live. We came to take the aid, but we have nowhere to put them. We have no house. As they gave us tarpaulins, we thank them and encourage them to continue to help us because all our possessions are underground now,” she said.

On 14 August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the southwestern region of Haiti with major impact in South, Nippes and Grand’Anse departments, with several aftershocks also recorded. Following the earthquake, the three departments were drenched by Tropical Depression Grace, further disrupting access to water, sanitation, shelter, and other basic services. UNICEF estimates the affected population within the broader area of the impact of the earthquake has reached 1,211,000 people, including 540,000 children. To date, more than 2,200 deaths and 12,250 injured have been reported by the Haitian Civil Protection Agency. Over 115,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed, and nearly 580,000 people, or about 40 per cent of the population in the three departments, were in need of emergency assistance.

UNICEF has office in the south with staff already on the ground making assessment to prioritize urgent needs and provide assistance to affected populations. Children and families are in urgent need of shelter, clean water, medical care, and protection. “My husband can't work, I have nothing. I pray to God and we can only pray for these people so that they find things to bring us. The way they did it at Camp-Perrin, they have to keep doing it like that. Because if they don't do it in order and discipline, the vulnerable will not find aid,” Cherestale said.

Initial estimates show that over 300 schools in the South are completely destroyed or have sustained partial damages. “It will be extremely difficult for parents, teachers and the government to get children safely back to school just three weeks from now, when schools re-open on 7 September,” said Bruno Maes, UNICEF’s Representative in Haiti, after visiting a damaged school in Mazenod, near Les Cayes. “But it is so crucial for children who have just gone through this traumatic earthquake-plus-extreme weather experience, to have the normalcy and stability of being in a classroom with their friends and teachers.”

Within hours of the earthquake, a UNICEF truck delivered six medical kits to three hospitals in Les Cayes, with enough supplies – including gloves, painkillers, antibiotics and syringes – to treat 30,000 earthquake victims over three months.

To date, UNICEF has worked with the government and civil society partners to provide:

  • 22 bladders with total volume of 35160,000 litres, in conjunction with the National Directorate for Water and Sanitation (DINEPA)
  • 34,600 Litres of safe water distributed through water trucking with an estimated over 100,000 people benefiting in less than two weeks.
  • Six water treatment plants were installed, facilitating the water trucking activities ten more to be installed come by mid-September.
  • Distribution of 5,040 hygiene kits (comprising household water treatments products, soap, water storage, handwashing devices, hygiene pads and other items) to benefit 25,200 people.
  • 2,600 hygiene kits to benefit 13,000 people were distributed by UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Maniche and Camp Perrin.
  • On 20 August, UNICEF’s Global Supply Division shipped to Haiti medicines, surgical equipment, nutritional supplements, as well as over half a million masks, 18 tents that will ensure continuity of service in health centres, and more than 65,000 water purification tablets, water tanks and family hygiene kits, including soap and menstrual hygiene materials. UNICEF has already ordered 30,200 hygiene kits to reach 156,000 people.
  • Essential medical supplies (orthopedic items, radiography and lab equipment), tents, mattresses, blankets, an ambulance and the deployment of volunteer medical staff.
  • 18 tents for sanitary structures, 50 oxygen cylinders, an electric generator and fuel for the operation of an oxygen generator.

UNICEF estimates that it will need US$15 million to respond to the most urgent needs of at least 385,000 people including 167,000 children under the age of five for a period of eight weeks. This initial funding requirement will be reviewed and adjusted in the coming weeks as the impact on children and families becomes clearer.