More than a million earthquake victims in Haiti are still living in camps. Many of them are children as four out of ten people in Haiti are under 14 years old. Difficult living conditions in the camps and uncertainty about the future mark their daily lives. Irish Caritas member Trócaire provides children in camps with a safe place to play, learn and overcome the traumatizing memories of the disaster.
Six-year old Christine knows the centre in the Pétionville Club camp in Port-au-Prince inside out. She and her younger sister were among the first children to join the centre when it opened shortly after the earthquake.
“When she arrived, Christine was very stressed,” says Armelle Joseph, a local counsellor in the center. “She cried all the time and would refuse to participate and mingle with other kids. She was convinced another quake would happen. But she is doing a lot better now. Most days, she doesn’t want to go home!”
Symptoms of childhood trauma can be acute stress, nightmares, emotional distress, behavioural disorders or attention deficits.
“After an incident as traumatising as this earthquake, it is essential to offer safety, comfort and counselling to the children,” said Helen Nic An Ri, of Trócaire, who worked on setting up the spaces.
Child protection staff working with Trócaire have worked with more than 2,000 children in three different displacement camps. Counselling has been set up to help children and give them back some normality in their lives.
Christine herself says, “It is so nice here! I am having a lot of fun with my friends, we play all day! I also like it because we get food. And there is so much space!”
Trócaire has been particularly active in the fields of mental health and education since the earthquake in Haiti. It is providing community-based mental health support services for 20,000 people in Léogâne and Delmas, supporting the Ministry of Health in training primary healthcare doctors on mental health care and conducting a wide range of activities helping thousands of children go back to school.