"My house is really badly damaged. I don't have clean water, nor water to wash myself. My latrine is totally destroyed. I'm very scared, I think the event can happen again at any time," said Celia Astrel a 101 year old woman who lives Pestel, one of the areas affected by the Haiti earthquake.
As more time passes since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti on 14 August 2021, the need for support and intervention is becoming increasingly acute.
HelpAge International believes that more than 29,000 older people have been impacted by the earthquake, as well as 12,000 people with disabilities. They have lost their homes and shelter, and are in desperate need of clean water, food, and health care. This creates particular challenges as many older men and women are already living with complex health conditions and disabilities that limits their active involvement in the recovery process.
Patrick Nelson, the Acting Country Director in Haiti for Church World Service and a HelpAge partner in Haiti, explained the situation:
"The situation of older people in Haiti is getting worse every day. Most of them don't have food, water, clothing, a bed, or a place to stay with dignity. Their health needs are either being neglected, or they don't have money to cover the costs. They also don't have access to latrines to help with their physiological needs. They have a lot of problems, especially those with disabilities, and are not receiving the support and attention they need."
People urgently need secure shelters, food and clean water, as well as support to get their children back to school. This is made even more challenging because the main impact of the earthquake was in predominantly rural areas that are traditionally under-served, with limited essential public services.
As Saintyle Clairose, an eighty-one year old woman from Charles Dieu, in Pestel's second section said:
“My house is destroyed, I have no drinking water, there is no water for laundry or for washing. We remain vigilant, keeping an eye open as I think it can happen again at any time. I lost my business and all my income. I have no shelter, how can I talk about safety? I need water, shelter and food.
HelpAge international is partnering with Church World Service in Pestel, Grand’Anse department in Haiti as technical advisors to a programme to facilitate an age- and disability-inclusive response to the growing humanitarian crisis. This includes supporting an inclusive rapid needs assessment and an immediate relief project focused on health, psychosocial support, shelter, non-food items, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and emergency repair of community structures.
“One of the biggest problems older people face now is that many of them don’t have someone to take care of them or to talk to,” said Patrick Nelson of Church World Service.
Prior to the earthquake, Haiti was already in an incredibly fragile situation. Following the assassination of the President in July 2021, gang violence escalated sharply displacing thousands. More than four million people require food aid due to acute food insecurity. The health system is already overburdened by the Covid-19 crisis - in a country where less than one percent of the population has been vaccinated. All of which combines for a complex humanitarian situation which is in urgent need of support.
"We recognise the efforts by the Haitian National Authorities, working in partnership with national and international organisations, to respond to the most urgent needs of the people affected by the earthquake and welcome the activation of the UN Disaster and Coordination global response mechanism.
"Given the specific trauma and challenges faced by older people, we urge the Haitian authorities and donor community to ensure that the needs of older women and men affected by this crisis are not overlooked. There must be a full assessment of their needs and an adequate response delivered as a matter of urgency. And in the long term, more work must be done to build resilience in such fragile communities," said Cherian Matthews, director of Global Impact at HelpAge International.
The August earthquake destroyed more than 130,000 homes and severely damaged the public infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, and water networks, have left people living without shelter and in desperate need of clean water, food and health care.