French | Spanish | Creole Message from the Caritas family in Haiti On the occasion of the first anniversary of the 12th January earthquake, the members of the Caritas Internationalis Confederation, in communion with Caritas Haiti, feel the need to express once more their proximity to all the victims of this tragedy. They reaffirm their faith in a better future for the Haitian people whom they want to continue to help, and they want to offer an inventive charity contributing to building a new society.
Caritas staff from around the world joined with their colleagues in Haiti to express mourning, solidarity and hope one year after a devastating earthquake.
The 12 January 2010 earthquake left 230,000 dead and affected three million people. Caritas has been part of international relief efforts to first save lives in the immediate weeks and months after the tragedy.
Caritas Internationalis is the official aid arm of the Catholic Church and its membership includes 165 Catholic charities. Eleven Caritas members are on the ground working alongside Caritas Haiti on a reconstruction programme with over 60 Caritas members supporting the work.
“We remember that day, which shook the whole nation,” said Caritas organisations working in Haiti in a joint declaration. “It’s not so much the earthquake that took away our children, our relatives, our next of kin and our friends, as the poverty, ignorance and irresponsibility. We cannot be outraged against nature, but against […]
Cordaid – Caritas Netherlands
Francois Tifabe was walking through an alley near his home on 12 January 2010 when the ground started to shake. Before he understood what was happening a nearby wall collapsed and the debris fell on his leg.
“I still feel the pain and need a stick to walk,” said Mr Tifabe, pointing to his injured leg.
On returning home, his worst fears were confirmed. His house had totally collapsed in the earthquake. However, he was relieved to find that his wife and five children had survived.
Bad times followed in the months after the earthquake. The family went to live in a camp. Following the earthquake, over one million people were without a home. They slept anywhere: in camps, in the street, in improvised shelters made from anything they could find.
“There were snakes crawling in the camp and the ground was wet all the time. Our tent wasn’t such […]
The afternoon of the Haiti earthquake many children died or were left trapped in collapsed schools. An estimated 90 per cent of schools in Port-au-Prince were damaged or destroyed, leaving around two million children without access to education.
Literacy rates in Haiti were already low compared to global standards before the earthquake. The Haitian authorities emphasised that helping children return to school as quickly as possible was a priority.
Development and Peace (the Canadian member of the Caritas network) responded quickly to this appeal by supporting several religious communities that run schools and by investing in the rebuilding of schools and in training.
“After such a traumatic event, school can be very stabilising for children as it gives them back some sense of normalcy to their lives,” said Danielle Leblanc, Emergency Programs Officer for Development and Peace. “The desire to greet the children back was there, but the walls weren’t and many […]
Saint Louis Wilner is counting his blessings that his wife and children are alive. He lost family members in the earthquake and also his house and possessions. His wife lost her business and he lost his job as a result of the disaster. It’s been a tough year.
He’s taking his three-year-old daughter, Julie, to school. This is one reassuring glimpse of normality in a time of uncertainty and difficulties.
Dominic Savio nursery in Sibert, Port-au-Prince, collapsed in the earthquake. Caritas Czech Republic along with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate helped rebuild it.
They also provided the children with school uniforms and basic supplies and learning activities.
Mr Wilner has managed to survive on casual work since he lost his job. Caritas Czech helped him with cash-for-work projects and by providing the family with food and essential items as well as a tent to live in.
“It’s difficult living in a tent […]
With Port-au-Prince in ruins following the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people fled to the countryside.
Les Cayes, in the south or Haiti, is a rural zone. It is very vulnerable to heavy rains, floods and soil erosion due to deforestation.
Enelio Teme is trying to help his relatives who arrived from Port-au-Prince following the earthquake but floods following the earthquake have made his life much more difficult.
“My crops, my seeds, my cattle…everything has disappeared,” he says. “People don’t usually die from hunger here, but this year, who knows? What with my family arriving on top of the floods, life is very difficult.”
Mr Enelio’s story isn’t unusual in Les Cayes. Mass deforestation around Les Cayes has led to soil erosion which leads to floods when torrential rains arrive. The floods in February 2010 destroyed most of the crops and led to the loss of many heads of cattle.
Secours Catholique works with […]
Catholic Relief Services (CRS – an American member of Caritas) had been working Haiti 55 years before the earthquake struck. On 12 January, CRS had a staff of around 300 on the ground who had been working on existing programmes. Here’s how the year panned out:
12 January: When the earthquake hits in the afternoon, many people are at work and children are at school. Mary Lineberger, who was in Haiti for CRS, said: “All around us we heard screaming and the crashing down of buildings. The falling of buildings continued for hours. We stayed there at the apartment complex and immediately pulled the mattresses out knowing that we would be sleeping outdoors for several nights.”
14 January: Staff in neighbouring Dominican Republic prepare 10,000 packages of food and water with each package containing enough to sustain a family of five for two weeks.
18 January: Doctors at St. Francois de Sales hospital in Port-au-Prince […]
Crowded conditions in camps, limited access to water and heat poor sanitation combined to create a cholera time bomb for Haiti’s earthquake victims.
The first cases emerged in the Artibonite region in mid-October. Two months later, over 2,300 people had died from the disease and over 100,000 had been ill.
Cholera is spread through infected water. People who catch it can get severe vomiting and diarrhoea which lead to dehydration. If a case isn’t treated in time the person can die.
In the first 48 hours of the epidemic, Caritas Haiti in Gonaïves started to give out over 170,000 water purification tablets, hand disinfectant, rehydration salts and antibiotics.
Caritas Haiti and other Caritas member organisation embarked on awareness campaigns to tell the public about how necessary good hygiene was.
Caritas in Jacmel focused their awareness raising in schools. Staff trained teachers in hygiene promotion and cholera prevention. They also distributed water purification tablets […]
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. […]
Close to a year after the earthquake, Caritas relief and reconstruction programmes in Haiti are well-established throughout the country.
Caritas will invest more than $217 million in Haiti over a one year period that started in May 2010.
This aid will cover further emergency needs caused for example by hurricanes, floods or the cholera epidemic, such as the distribution of hygiene kits and food aid, but also infrastructure and housing projects, education, livelihoods, water, sanitation, capacity building and health programmes.
The funds are additional to the roughly $14 million that were spent in the first three months after the disaster for emergency relief efforts and first rehabilitation programmes.
As over a million people are still living in camps, shelter remains a major focus of Caritas’ work in Haiti.
Activities such as building and repairing houses, ensuring earthquake-resistant construction norms, training work force in the construction sector and providing building materials to earthquake victims make […]
Caritas started to send staff, aid and to donate money within hours of the earthquake. Caritas Haiti, Catholic Relief Services (a US member of Caritas) and Caritas Switzerland already had programmes in Haiti. They were on the ground assessing the situation and establishing what immediate needs were from the beginning
In the first few months, Caritas’ efforts were focused on providing food, water, sanitation, medical support and shelter to hundreds of thousands of people in need.
Three months after the earthquake, Caritas relief efforts had reached more than 1.5 million survivors. Caritas members from over 60 countries took action from the first day of the disaster to provide food, shelter, livelihoods, clean water, a safe place for children, healthcare, and trauma counselling. Over US $14 million (Euro 10 million) was spent by Caritas in the first three months to respond to the first emergency and start setting up rehabilitation programs.
Until April, […]
Ruth Schoeffel was working for Caritas Austria in Haiti immediately after the earthquake and got involved in a rescue mission
I went with the Caritas rescuers from Mexico and some rescuers from South Africa to the Cuban hospital one day as I wanted to write about what the hospital was doing. While we were there a dog from a German rescue team found signs of life in the rubble of the nearby cathedral. The rescue teams split up and started looking in different places.
It was the most surreal situation I had ever experienced. There was shooting nearby and there were people rooting through the rubble looking for valuable things. Then the rescuers said a woman was alive under the bricks.
I climbed up on top of the rubble to talk to her as the rescuers didn’t understand French. I also tried to help her keep calm.
When I first talked to her […]
Caritas Germany, Dr Joost Butenop – health advisor
Following the Haiti earthquake, Caritas was with the most-affected people from very early on and we managed to save lives and alleviate suffering within our capacity. Our health centres always did more than handing out drugs. People came for comfort and support. Holding a hand or hugging a patient was as important and life-saving as giving antibiotics to children with pneumonia. Most of our consultations in the first months were “psychosocial” in nature rather than medical in that we helped people deal with the emotional impact of the earthquake.
Even before the earthquake struck, the state of the healthcare system in the areas affected by the earthquake was worse than those in most countries I had ever worked in. Haiti’s health system was already a shambles before the earthquake with less than 30 percent of the population having access to health care services […]
Nelson Elissier and Michelle Azor built their house brick by brick. They didn’t have much money, but every time they got a little, they bought building materials for their house. It took four years to complete their home, but just six months after they had finished, the earthquake destroyed what they had worked for.
Their story is similar to that of many others in Haiti, where poverty means that people have to work very hard to build a house for their families.
Many people slept outside their houses when the earthquake hit. They wanted to protect their possessions and stay in a place they knew when all around them was uncertain.
“We never considered leaving our house to go and live in a camp,” said Mr Elissier. “We stayed here because it’s our home. Leaving would have meant losing everything.
Caritas Austria’s reconstruction project in Fort Hugo in the district of Morne […]
Preventing the spread of cholera in earthquake-wracked Haiti remains a chief concern for Caritas.
New cases of the waterborne disease continue to be reported in much of the country, including the centre, north and northwest, and west. Cholera prevention and hygiene promotion are ongoing throughout the capital Port-au-Prince and in all the affected communities.
Haiti is struggling to rebuild after an earthquake 12 January destroyed much of its health and water infrastructure, as well as leaving over a million people homeless and in tents.
Over 500 people have died of cholera as of 8 November and several thousand have been hospitalized.
Hurricane Tomas clipped Haiti 5 November, bringing torrential rain and flooding in western Haiti, adding to the humanitarian challenge. Caritas assessment teams in Gonaives have reported damage to buildings, including the Caritas office and a health centre and other Church buildings. Caritas has evacuated some 100 children and distributed tarpaulins.
Seven dead bodies […]