Haiti: What did we learn? The Shelter Response and Housing Recovery in the First Two Years after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake


The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and their partners, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UN-Habitat, and Habitat for Humanity International, joined forces in 2013 to analyze what was learned from the 2010 Haiti earthquake shelter response and housing recovery experience. This report is the outcome of that process. It is based on candid conversations and reflections among the people and organizations that helped shape and deliver the international community’s urban shelter and housing assistance programs following one of the major urban disasters of recent times.

This report is not a formal evaluation, but rather a synthesis of the experiences, observations, and recommendations of a large group of experienced post-disaster shelter and recovery experts gathered from interviews, surveys, and direct discussions, and information derived from a desk review of the wide variety of available evaluations and reports.

The shelter response and housing recovery efforts in Haiti during the first two years after the earthquake have been widely scrutinized. There is certainly much that could be questioned—with respect to timeliness, policy orientation, equity, and cost-effectiveness. There were also aspects of these efforts that worked well, despite some initial delays. Lessons learned have already been incorporated in subsequent post-disaster recovery responses and have motivated organizational reforms.

It has become almost a cliché to say that we live in an increasingly vulnerable world. Haiti embodies many of the factors that contribute to global vulnerability: it is rapidly urbanizing, low-income, hampered by fragile governance mechanisms and institutions, supported by an economy that is largely informal and that exhibits extreme disparities, and highly dependent on its external partners for both social and economic support. Worldwide, population growth and unplanned urbanization in the fragile cities of developing economies, combined with the impacts of climate change, are causing a concentration of urban risk.

Helping the countries most at risk become more resilient and better prepared for more effective urban crisis response is a collective responsibility. We hope this report can contribute to that effort.