Two years on, ActionAid’s earthquake response continues, but huge challenges remain

News and Press Release
Originally published

Two years on from the devastating earthquake which killed over 220,000 people and left a further 1.5 million homeless, huge challenges remain, not least the issue of how to rehome the 600,000 or so people who are still living in tents throughout Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.

Immediate response

In the initial aftermath of the disaster, ActionAid worked closely with local partners and affected communities themselves to provide life-saving support – food, water and plastic sheeting for shelter – to tens of thousands of people in camps in and around Port-au-Prince. Fundraising appeals and grants from donors across the world helped ActionAid raise over $13m - funds which were channelled into a three year response and recovery programme.

Moving towards recovery

As ActionAid’s response progressed, the organisation moved to help people start to rebuild their lives, providing temporary shelter, new livelihoods opportunities, educational resources for children, as well as psychosocial support to enable people to overcome the emotional impact of the earthquake. By January 2011, one year on from the quake, ActionAid had reached over 138,000 people in camps in and around the capital city, as well as areas further afield to where some of those who lost their homes settled following the disaster. By the end of 2011, having expanded our response to new areas, we had reached a total of over 200,000 people.

When the cholera epidemic hit in October 2010, ActionAid responded immediately, providing hygiene kits, chlorine to purify water supplies, and raising awareness of good hygiene practices amongst local partners and communities. As in all the organisation’s emergency responses, ActionAid targeted the most vulnerable groups, including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and people living with disabilities.

“We have made significant progress in supporting the most vulnerable Haitians to start to get back on their feet, and we are grateful to the many donors – both the general public and big institutions – who have helped us do this,” said Jean-Claude Fignolé, Director of ActionAid Haiti.

“But we must also recognise that rebuilding a country that had huge socio-economic and political problems even before the earthquake is a massive job, and one that will require a long term commitment from all involved.”

Call for inclusion of Haitians

Two years on from the disaster, and despite the efforts of the international community and Haitian government, the situation for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who still lack permanent homes and access to basic services remains desperate.

In 2011, ActionAid Haiti along with grassroots networks, social movements and women’s groups that represent over 800,000 Haitians, set up the Je nan Je (Eye to Eye) movement to promote greater aid accountability and transparency to reform the national housing and agriculture plans and provide secure safe, affordable, long-term housing for the most vulnerable displaced Haitians. Key to all of this is the involvement of Haitians in their own recovery.

“Haiti’s reconstruction process has proved that fighting poverty and making progress are impossible when the people are excluded,” Fignolé said. “Haitians and particularly those most affected by the earthquake should be empowered to play a role in their own development, and should lead on the planning, implementation and monitoring of all rebuilding activity.”

Marking two years since Haiti’s devastating earthquake which killed around 220,000 and left 1.5 million people homeless, 7,500 people will march through the centre of Port au Prince on Wednesday 11 January to demand access to land and adequate housing. The march, organised by the Je nan Je campaign and supported by ActionAid, will present a charter of demands to the Haitian parliament.

“Haitian organisations, the government and the international community now have the perfect opportunity to come together and define the parameters for a structure that is inclusive, collaborative and most importantly accountable,” continued Fignolé.

Advocacy work such as this will continue alongside programme work as a core component of ActionAid’s continuing response into 2013.

About ActionAid: ActionAid is an international anti-poverty organisation working with over 25 million people in 43 countries for a world free from poverty and injustice. In Haiti, ActionAid Haiti supports poor people’s basic rights and needs, working at a practical level to improve access to basic services. ActionAid Haiti also supports 8451 children and their families through its child sponsorship programme. Since the devastating January 12 2010 earthquake, ActionAid Haiti has implemented an emergency response program that has reached a total of 138,000 people. The organisation is building 350 new transitional shelters in Gressier, near Carrefour, to house around 2,500 people.

To arrange media interviews contact: (European time zone): Ginny Reid ginny.reid@actionaid.org + 44 (0)20 3122 0614 (Americas time zone): Glauce Arzua glauce.arzua@actionaid.org +55 21 2189-4626