23 July 2012
“Just a little while ago, it was very hard for me to find something to eat. I didn’t feel strong, I didn’t know what to do and had no one to help me. Now I’ve got my energy back,” said 60-year-old Olivia Jean Louis. She is part of the Caritas Les Cayes Elders Assistance and Super vision Programme set up by Caritas Haiti in partnership with Caritas Spain after the massive earthquake (called the goudougoudou in Creole) of 12 January 2010 in Haiti.
Rebuilding homes in Cap Rouge, Haiti.
“ The elderly were hit badly by the earthquake,” said Juan Manuel Diaz Parrondo, Caritas Spain’s representative in Haiti. “Some of them lost their homes in Port-au-Prince or Jacmel and returned to the communities where they originally came from. But their families are already very poor. They can’t take them in, feed, house and look after them.”
There are no pensions in Haiti. The elderly rely on their children. But many of these children had moved to the cities to work. Some of them died in the earthquake, while others lost everything including their homes and jobs. Without them, the elderly are left to look after themselves and live in extremely difficult conditions.
The programme aims to provide food for poor older people and give them the healthcare they need. I t also enables them to develop small farming and commercial activities to boost their self-sufficiency.
“ We’ve settled the poorest of the community’s elderly in a house,” said Fr Aldagène Louisnel, head of the local Caritas. “ We can feed another 25 elderly people ever y day as a result. They’re looked after by a nurse. They’re super vised and take part in various activities to help them become part of communities again or increase their income support themselves.”
Caritas members are keeping up their efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the disaster. After giving immediate assistance such as food, hygiene kits and temporary shelter, Caritas members have turned their attention to more long-term aid projects.
Thousands of homes have been rebuilt, which as Caritas Haiti said represents “a victor y over the earthquake and a fresh start for the most vulnerable families”. Caritas is also working to provide people with better access to healthcare and adequate sanitation. This work has become a high priority since a cholera epidemic in Haiti in October 2010, which continues to threaten many regions of the country.
Caritas members also support the rebuilding of schools and the improvement of access to education for children from poor families. Caritas helps farmers to improve their output and fight malnutrition.
Caritas has also provided counselling to people traumatised after the earthquake, especially children. Caritas has helped women to start up new businesses to make them more self-reliant and to improve the living standards of their families. The initiatives are as diverse as the needs of the Haitian people.