On October 6, 2018, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit the Northwest department of Haiti. As early as October 9, the Haitian Civil Protection Agency reported 17 deaths, 333 injured people and 7,783 families in need of humanitarian assistance following the earthquake. On October 19, Haiti´s Civil Protection estimated 9,466 houses had been damaged and 1,460 destroyed in Northwest department alone. In addition, an estimated 80 schools were damaged or destroyed. This area has been a program priority for community development, disaster risk reduction and emergency response for CWS since 2004 because of its environmental vulnerability and the fragility of families´ livelihoods, weak state presence, low number of humanitarian assistance or development agencies and remarkable resilience of its people.
In the affected area, as part of its 2016 Hurricane Matthew response, CWS built 83 houses, with another 35 still under construction. All the houses withstood the earthquake without a scratch, confirming the sustainability of strongly constructed homes from both a development and relief perspective.
In coordination with partners, community leaders and local authorities, a team of CWS engineers was on site immediately after the earthquake for a rapid damage assessment. Major findings included:
All CWS-constructed houses assessed by CWS engineers (37 assessed of 118 total houses) resisted the earthquake without damage.
Non-CWS constructed buildings were more likely to sustain damage. Of eight schools assessed, all sustained major damage or were destroyed. CWS engineers also visited houses impacted to assess the extent of damage, eighty of which were destroyed, and seven needed repairs.
CWS Response: Focus on Durable Solutions
With the government of Haiti and other agencies coordinating and contributing towards short-term relief efforts including temporary shelter (tarps, tents), CWS believes there is a need for long-term durable solutions that will not be met. CWS will focus on school and house construction in communities where – with CWS support – our grassroots partners are already implementing community development initiatives. The CWS response will directly benefit the most vulnerable members of the community: children attending destroyed public schools and rural families in extreme poverty that lost their home.
Based on the level of damage observed and given its experience in repair and reconstruction of houses and schools, CWS plans to repair/reconstruct houses with local partners GRADAID and AGEHMPDNG in communities ranging from four to 40 miles of Port-de-Paix, the epicenter of the earthquake.
CWS requests $470,000 to build 60 houses for the most vulnerable families plus one public school with six classrooms. This will directly benefit an estimated 600 people. As a reference, reconstruction of a public school with six classrooms for up to 400 students costs $140,000 and takes six months to build from the moment school authorities give its formal approval. Reconstruction of a house costs $5,500 and takes two months. Community participation differs per area, but is estimated at 15-30 percent of total costs and consists of labor, preparing food for laborers and provision of locally available materials such as rocks and gravel. In all cases, the construction process includes training and community education about safe building methods and disaster preparedness.
How to Help
Donations to support our response may be made at cwsglobal.org/haiti-earthquake or sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN. Please designate 6772-Haiti earthquake response.
Note: CWS is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy. ACT Alliance Haiti Forum is not issuing an appeal. They recommend that other members interested in responding support the work of members already active in the Northwest department, of which Church World Service is one of two.