On Saturday 14th August, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Over 1,000 people are confirmed dead and even more are seriously injured.
Angeline Annesteus, Country Director of ActionAid Haiti, says: “This deadly quake has destroyed homes and infrastructure in some of Haiti’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities.
“In Jérémie, one of the areas most affected, our team is helping with rescue efforts as families desperately try to pull loved ones from the rubble. Sadly, we expect the death toll to continue to rise.
“We are assessing people’s most urgent needs and preparing to respond by providing food, temporary shelter and essential items such as blankets and hygiene kits for women and girls.
“Women and girls are already bearing the brunt of the multiple crises facing Haiti, including rising hunger, political instability and gang violence. The devastating fallout from this earthquake, could push many more families into poverty and hunger.”
ActionAid Haiti’s network of women trained as first responders during emergencies will provide emergency relief.
Alix Percinthe, field coordinator for ActionAid Haiti in Grand’Anse, has been carrying out urgent needs assessments in Jérémie and Roseaux. He said most of the people injured were women and children.
“In some villages, I saw that most of the homes were destroyed or damaged. These are poor communities that were already vulnerable.”
“Their houses were not solid, they were flattened, and some people were killed by falling rocks from landslides triggered by the quake.
“In all areas the most urgent needs are food, water and shelter. Last night, families slept in the street either because they lost their homes, or they were too afraid to stay inside.”
People are struggling to access healthcare with hospitals already overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and damaged by the earthquake. In addition, Alix found five health centres in the area destroyed.
ActionAid’s response to the earthquake includes providing food support, shelter, essential items including blankets, pillows, kitchenware and hygiene kits for women and girls.
No shelter as Storm Grace hits Haiti
As part of ActionAid Haiti’s network of women leaders trained to be first responders during emergencies. Ysnell Jean, who lives in Grand’Anse, did all she could to support her community prepare for the storm.
“The situation on the ground is really awful, people have lost all their assets and belongings, their houses are damaged. People are living in the streets with no [clean] water,” she says.
“Before the earthquake, if there was a storm, people would gather in the big churches. But now the church is damaged, and people are afraid to go there. And they are afraid to stay in their own damaged homes.”
“I am concerned for women and girls, because they are more exposed to risks like violence after a huge disaster,” she says. “This is one of the biggest threats when we are facing disasters, so we need to help affected communities protect women from sexual abuse.”
Local women leading the response
ActionAid Haiti has trained groups of women on how to prepare and respond when disasters strike. Women like Ysnell will provide emergency assistance. For example, running protection services for women and girls at safe spaces in the worst hit areas. When Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, these women were ready to respond. And the same network of women leaders are now responding to areas most affected by Saturday’s earthquake.
Local women and women-led organisations lead ActionAid’s response during emergencies. They are uniquely placed to respond to the specific and disproportionate needs of women, girls and marginalised groups. This includes the increased risk of gender-based violence during emergency situations.
If you would like to donate to ActionAid’s response in Haiti you can do so here.