Habitat for Humanity has started emergency kit distributions in communities hit hardest by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti's southwest peninsula while also mapping out a strategy to help families rebuild in the region.
Sunday's initial distribution of 220 hygiene kits in the town of Pestel is the first of several planned in collaboration with local communities and partner organizations. The kits contain soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, masks, towels, and other hygiene items. Habitat's response strategy also includes distribution of emergency shelter kits --- containing items such as tarps, fixings, and tools --- and conducting housing assessments in coordination with the Haitian government to help families determine if their home is safe to inhabit again or needs to be repaired or demolished. Longer-term, Habitat will partner with families to build and repair homes that are more disaster resilient.
"This is another heartbreaking disaster and a very heavy time for all of us Haitians, so we are looking for ways to channel that energy into helping each other," said Jean Frenel Tham, national director of Habitat for Humanity Haiti. "We at Habitat for Humanity are committed to working with the government and other partners to help more Haitians build a safe, secure place to call home."
Habitat helped build or repair 1,800 homes in the region in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which tore apart houses across the peninsula in 2016. And while not all Habitat homes have been surveyed yet in the wake of the Aug. 14 earthquake, our early assessments indicate that 98% of them did not suffer significant damage and are safe for residents.
"These are the kind of resilient homes we want to help more families build during the earthquake recovery," Tham said, "and break the cycle of devastation after disasters."
Ernesto Castro, Habitat's vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, said Habitat, in addition to collaborating with the government and local communities, is also coordinating closely with other humanitarian organizations. "As in previous responses to hurricanes and earthquakes in Haiti, we will offer our technical expertise in housing to other organizations, seeking alliances with those that specialize in other areas of recovery so together we provide holistic support to the most vulnerable communities."
The death toll from the earthquake stands at more than 2,000, with more than 12,000 people injured, according to Haiti's Civil Protection Agency. Nearly 53,000 homes have been destroyed across the region, and another 77,000 severely damaged.
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