Recovery and resilience - Haiti two years after the quake

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Two years on from the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti many communities see recovery in sight and a level of normality returning, according to Tearfund. The Christian relief and development agency says this is down to the sheer resilience of Haitians and the accelerated effort of humanitarian agencies working together with communities.

'It has been an extremely difficult two years for the people of Haiti,' says Jean Claude Cerin, Tearfund Country Representative for Haiti. 'The lasting devastation caused by the earthquake, the cholera outbreak and political instability has meant Haitians have been living under very tough conditions.

'Despite these challenges, it is encouraging to see the progress made to restore communities and rebuild livelihoods. Housing activities and community initiatives are getting people out of camps and into homes and shelters. Economic recovery is slow but is happening. However, there is a long way to go with over 500,000* people still living in camps, many of whom are facing forced eviction.'

The earthquake struck on 12 January 2010, with its epicentre close to the country’s densely populated capital Port au Prince. It was one of the world’s biggest humanitarian catastrophes affecting more than three million people - killing 230,000 and leaving more than two million homeless.

Recovery was never going to be a quick fix, says Tearfund. And the scale and complexity of the disaster continues to affect progress. Rubble clearance, damaged infrastructure and land rights issues mean the resettlement of families into new homes has been slow. The cholera epidemic a year ago had a further devastating effect on the country, with more than half a million cases and close to 7,000 deaths to date.

'The assessment of UN and other agencies was that Haiti’s recovery would take ten years. Although we never lose sight of the scale and this context, we are now seeing hope and real progress among communities that we are working with. Their resilience and sheer determination has been extraordinary as we have supported them, and continue to support them, rebuild their homes, schools and their livelihoods,' adds Jean Claude.

Churches were quick to respond in the quake’s aftermath, opening their compounds and providing shelter and food. Many have continued to provide longer term development support, such as children’s education, counseling and health care, Tearfund works with local churches that are often at the centre of communities. They are quick to identify the needs and pastors have been active leaders within the affected communities.

Phanette Banatte Piard (37) is one of thousands of survivors that a Tearfund partner agency was able to help. Her life changed dramatically, suffering from injuries that lost her the use of her legs, and she received a cash grant towards her medical care. During her rehabilitation she became a new mum.

'Now my daughter has given a new sense to my life,' says Phanette. 'Becoming a mother and a parent gives me even more determination to continue to live after God protected my life when I was under the rubbles. Halleluia!

'And another miracle has happened. I can walk again! First, I started practicing with a walker and then with only a cane and now little by little, I can abandon even the cane and walk on my own.'

With a high concentration of international organisations focusing on urban areas, Tearfund deployed its own team to help rural and often neglected communities in the mountainous Leogane region. Here the quake destroyed more than 80% of the buildings.

'Successful reconstruction efforts must tackle the many aspects that this disaster brought to the country,” says Kristie van de Wetering, Tearfund’s Earthquake Programme Director in Haiti. “Tearfund’s integrated approach has included housing, education, economic recovery and the restoration of basic services, such as water and sanitation facilities. We have also equipped communities with the knowledge and resources to reduce their risk in the event of future disasters.'

In the last two years Tearfund-trained local carpenters have built 315 semi-permanent shelters and repaired 119 homes to disaster-resistant standards for vulnerable families living in remote communities. Tearfund has supported more than 100 rural schools with teacher training and the construction of transitional classrooms. Natural springs have been restored and latrines provided for over 9,000 school children, accompanied by activities to promote good hygiene.

Tearfund maintains its commitment to the long-term recovery of Haiti, building on its 30-year presence in the country.