Thank you for your generous support of Save the children's efforts in Haiti. As we near the anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Country Office Director Stephen Gwynne-Vaughan, sends this informative and inspiring message to Save the Children’s supporters.
On January 12, 2010 at 4:53pm, Haiti was rocked by a devastating earthquake. In October of 2010, thousands of Haitians succumbed to the world’s worst cholera epidemic. Haiti rose to the top of the list of humanitarian hotspots because after decades of political instability and corruption, economic and social underdevelopment, and environmental degradation, the majority of the population was poor and extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.
But, even as they dealt with family tragedies, Haitians proved to be quite resilient and overcame the most adverse conditions to begin the long process of recovery. With an outpouring of aid from the international community, the Haitian people shifted their immediate response from life saving to pursue a more ambitious and endurable plan to ‘build-back-better’.
By the time I arrived in Haiti in mid 2013, the initial recovery work had taken effect, and the end to suffering from the earthquake and even the eradication of cholera were in sight. Compared with conditions in 2010, the achievements made are easy to see. Of the million-and-a-half people displaced by the earthquake, 89% have left the camps.
Thousands of families moved from tents into wooden houses, then laid new foundations and built more solid cement brick homes. To the uninitiated visitor, the piles of gravel and sand that still dot the sides of narrow, winding streets may look dirty and disorganized, but they are clear signs of steadily advancing long-term construction.
As the rains ended in December, the number of new cholera cases dropped from 14,000 per week at the outset of the epidemic to manageable levels below 1,000 per week, and the mortality rate fell to below 1%. Most importantly, research indicates that while cholera is persistent in Haiti, the disease is not yet endemic and can be eradicated in the dry season if all existing cases are identified and treated.
There is also good news to report on the protection and education of children, who are among the most vulnerable to disasters. With help from Save the Children and other international organizations in the construction of new schools, rehabilitation of unsafe classrooms, provision of school equipment, teacher training, and financial support for operations, the government was able to introduce ‘Free Universal and Compulsory Schooling’, benefitting over a million children. After the earthquake response, enrolment rates rose above 50% for the first time in Haitian history.
According to the latest reports, in 2013, 77% of school aged children attended primary school. Looking ahead, I see the work that still needs to be done. On the roads there are still thousands of children working and playing who need safe playgrounds, and an education. Over half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and a quarter of all households are not sure where there next meal will come from.
One in every three Haitian children is stunted from undernourishment, and 20,000 children in Haiti are severely malnourished. Although many more children are now enrolled in school, over two thirds of pupils in primary school are overage and struggling to cope in an environment that is not conducive to learning, where the majority of teachers are unqualified, and buildings and classes are unsafe and ill-equipped.
While there is a lot more to do here in Haiti, the attention of the world has shifted to new crises and it worries me that the gains from the earthquake response might be lost before already identified lasting solutions can be applied to the underlying problems afflicting Haitians.
So much has already been done, and if timely resources are supplied, displacement could be ended and cholera could be eradicated in Haiti—not through emergency response but through investments in education, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, and protection, which take time but bring lasting results that save lives and reduce suffering. Since 2010 Save the Children has reached over one million Haitians with life saving relief and recovery assistance: with your continued support, we can help the children of Haiti to build a better future.
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The earthquake had a profound impact for Save the Children, which has worked continuously in Haiti since 1978. On the afternoon of the disaster, we had approximately 160 national and international staff conducting development programs in health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, education, child protection and emergency relief during Haiti’s frequent floods and storms. The urgent needs created by the earthquake required Save the Children to quickly initiate what became our largest humanitarian aid mission to date in the Western Hemisphere. By June 2010, there were some 1,200 staff, the vast majority of whom were working on relief and recovery programs.
As of June 2011, our Haitian staff numbered 757. While some will be leaving the agency as grant-funded programs end, there will be approximately 430 national and international staff at the end of this year—more than double the number prior to the earthquake.
Save the Children’s reach has also grown. In 2009, some 1.6 million Haitians directly or indirectly benefited from our work. In 2010, with much of our attention focused on the earthquake, we reached 2.1 million children and adults through earthquake relief; relief for those affected by a late-season tropical storm; responses to the cholera epidemic; and through development programs that were restarted. We are also now in the second year of a five-year earthquake recovery initiative focusing on education, health, nutrition and child protection to benefit 1 million children and adults.
With more staff in place, Save the Children seeks to take advantage of this opportunity and provide training to improve the effectiveness of our programs and the required support services and increasingly nationalize our workforce. This not only addresses the very real needs of our Haitian staff today in terms of building their skills and leadership, but reflects Save the Children’s global commitment to sustainability, local participation and the long-term development of civil societies by creating talent pools of trained and skilled national staff wherever we work.
Raising the quality of education and constructing safer schools for Haiti's children are at the center of Save the Children's plans for creating lasting change.
The Institut Abellard in Léogâne is a model of innovative construction techniques that make the school structure more hurricane and earthquake-resistant and therefore safer for the children who learn within its walls. This school is the first of its kind and serves as an example of best practices of design and construction. The techniques have been studied by both private builders and non-governmental organizations as a prototype for building other schools around the country.
Attached please find Save the Children's most recent report on education and school construction programs in Haiti.
One year after the historic Haitian earthquake, Save the Children is grateful to our global donors for their compassion and generosity in supporting the organization’s immediate relief and recovery efforts for Haitian children and their families. From the in-country teams to Save the Children staff around the world, we are thankful for your support and desire to help the people of Haiti. Your contributions have enabled Save the Children to mount and now sustain the largest humanitarian aid response in the Western Hemisphere in the agency’s 91-year history.
Below please find a link to Save the Children’s report, Haiti’s Children One Year Later: A Country at a Crossroads.
Since the epic earthquake in Haiti, Save the Children has worked nonstop to alleviate children’s suffering and ensure their well-being.
Rachelle’s story: Haiti
In the ”baby tent,” established by Save the Children in Leogane, Haiti, one-month-old infant twins and their mother, Rachelle, have a quiet and safe place to breastfeed, an oasis from the crowded camp outside. “It’s my first time here, and I am hoping to receive some advice for taking care of my babies,” said Rachelle. “I am not getting enough to eat and I need support as these are my first children.” In addition to providing a protected place, the tents serve as a center for breastfeeding support groups as many mothers are having difficulty feeding their infants since the quake. Tent staff also monitor and treat children with acute malnutrition.
As in any emergency, infants and young children are the most vulnerable survivors of the disaster in Haiti. Breastfeeding is an affordable and vital way to help keep them alive and healthy.
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