In January 2010, the fate of Haiti and its people shifted with the ground beneath them as the strongest earthquake in 200 years - and a series of powerful aftershocks - demolished the capital and surrounding areas throughout the southern coast. In thirty seconds some 230,000 people were dead. Three million people were affected by the quake with almost a million made homeless. Where neighbourhoods, schools, government buildings and offices formerly stood, afterwards there was a landscape of rubble and makeshift settlements. Haiti, already one of the world’s poorest countries, was left in a state of utter devastation.
What did World Jewish Relief do in Haiti?
In the days and nights following the earthquake, thousands of men, women and children, with little more than the clothes they were wearing, slept in the streets, on pavements, in their cars, or in makeshift shanty towns. Their homes had been destroyed and they were in fear that standing structures would not withstand aftershocks. Thousands were dead, families were separated, phone lines were down and panic and confusion reigned.
Within hours of the catastrophe, World Jewish Relief had begun to mobilise. Working in partnership with local and international agencies, our strategy was based on two components:
- the provision of immediate, life saving items
- the development of a longer-term rehabilitation programme to support victims of the disaster
In the days and weeks following the earthquake, World Jewish Relief provided:
- 715 shelter tarpaulins and 278 bulk food packages
- 20 large family tents and 142 family water kits
- Five medical kits, each containing essential medical supplies to provide healthcare for 10,000 people for three months
- 286 hygiene kits, and 24 child support kits to help create safe and welcoming “Child Friendly” spaces
- The construction of four water storage tanks providing a total of 12,000 gallons of drinking water to over 3,000 individuals
Meeting longer term needs in Haiti
Once the immediate crisis passed, we turned our attention to how we could best support the communities ravaged by the earthquake as they began the difficult job of rebuilding their lives and their country. There was an enormous surge in the numbers of people in need of medical care, putting a strain on a health service that even before the quake was inadequate and poorly resourced.
In response to this need, World Jewish Relief formed a partnership with the international health agency Merlin, now a part of Save the Children, in March 2010, to provide healthcare via four mobile health clinics. Each clinic had two doctors, four nurses and two cars stocked with medical equipment and drugs. In the first month alone, the clinics treated 2,164 people in 11 locations close to Port-au-Prince, Petit Goave and Grand Goave, for conditions such as malaria, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and gastric pain.
April saw the early onset of the rainy season, with the associated risk of the spread of infectious diseases. In response to this, our mobile clinics visited three other towns, Arnoux, Ticoma and Magdalene, where there were no functioning Ministry of Health facilities at all.
Our mobile clinics treated hundreds of children for respiratory infections, diarrhoea, asthma and skin infections and many elderly people for hypertension, arthritis and anaemia, common complaints for those living in tents during the rainy season.
We are extremely proud of the life-saving work we enabled in 2010.
When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in October 2016 and disaster struck once more, World Jewish Relief quickly responded by providing essential humanitarian aid.