The story of Haiti’s devastating January 2010 earthquake is far from over. As steady progress toward recovery continues, much of the emergency response is now transitioning to longer-term recovery. With the confirmation of a new Prime Minister in October 2011, it is hoped that one of the most significant challenges to recovery – the lack of a fully functional government – will also improve.
The task of rebuilding has been slowed by the fact that, before the quake, Haiti’s economy and public services were overwhelmingly centered in the overcrowded capital city of Port-au-Prince. The new government is pursuing an urgently-needed agenda of decentralization but it will require long-term investment in economic opportunities in rural areas.
An evolving strategy for the decongestion of camps for displaced people recognizes that many of those who remain in the camps are among the most vulnerable and have few options to find permanent housing. Efforts are underway by CARE and other aid agencies to shift the provision of services to neighborhoods in order to minimize the incentive to remain in the camps. As of the end of September 2011 an estimated 550,560 Haitians were still living in camps. This is still a huge number but represents a decrease of about two-thirds from the peak of about 1.5 million people immediately after the quake.
Other ongoing challenges to Haitians’ pursuit of a stable future include a high rate of sexual and gender-based violence and the country’s extremely weak educational infrastructure. Even before the earthquake, more than 500,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12 did not attend school. A large percentage of families relied on private schools of inconsistent quality.
The country is still grappling with the impact of a large-scale cholera outbreak, which struck in October 2010. According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Health on November 30, 2011, there have been 516,699 cholera cases and 6,942 deaths reported. While the crisis has stabilized thanks to the response of government and humanitarian agencies, Haitians now face the threat of endemic cholera, particularly during rainy seasons and in places with inadequate water and sanitation and poor public awareness of good hygiene practices.
Over the past two years since the earthquake, CARE has implemented a large-scale immediate and longer-term response thanks to many generous donors. Affected people have benefited from CARE’s work in shelter, safe water and sanitation, psychosocial support, livelihood opportunities and education. On their behalf, we offer our sincere thanks for your generosity.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, CARE focused on meeting humanitarian needs. During the initial months we served more than 290,000 people with crucial assistance including tarps, tents, shelter kits, mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans, hygiene kits, safe delivery kits, newborn kits and food. From the earliest days, CARE was developing a strategy for reconstruction and sustainable development. Today, much of our earthquake response programming has shifted to this longer-term focus.
Transition to a longer-term response
CARE’s shelter team is closely aligning its strategy with the Haitian government’s priority of assisting families still living in tent camps to return to their original neighborhoods. We are placing a focus on encouraging sustainable long-term building and improved construction practices. CARE’s Neighborhoods of Return Program encourages decongestion in spontaneous camps by improving living conditions in areas of return.
CARE’s economic development programs aim to reduce dependence on emergency assistance by providing market-oriented livelihood opportunities to earthquake survivors as well as residents of communities hosting displaced people. We are supporting this objective through income-earning opportunities such as cash-for-work programs, supporting government decentralization policy and reinforcing and rehabilitating economic infrastructure. Community self-help and microfinance institutions, particularly targeting women, are encouraging savings and investment and creating a financial base for local community development.
Our education program continues to directly help affected schools close to the earthquake’s epicenter and, indirectly, schools overwhelmed by the influx of displaced children. As in our other programming, CARE’s approach is evolving to address long-term education quality, including the provision of psychosocial and teacher training, support for community engagement in schools, and capacity building of government bodies.
The evolution of CARE’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs includes helping Haitian authorities assume responsibility for joint operations that provide safe drinking water in cholera-affected communities. Likewise, in keeping with our priority of shifting services out of displaced-persons camps, most programs covering chlorinated water distribution to camps were phased out as of September 2011.
Our immediate and long-term activities in these and other areas over the two years since the earthquake are detailed in the following sections.
The construction of permanent dwellings remains a slow process due to the concentration of Haiti’s property in a few hands and the lack of clarity of land titles. We hope the situation will improve with the recent inauguration of the Prime Minister. Nonetheless, CARE has succeeded in providing over 2,500 transitional shelters to more than 13,000 displaced people. The shelters were designed in consultation with residents to provide dignified, secure dwellings that are resistant to the elements, are intended to last for three to five years and provide the option of expansion into a more permanent dwelling. CARE experts have provided more than 300 hands-on training sessions to homeowners in modern, storm- and earthquake-resistant construction techniques.
For people in rural areas, where some households have been overstretched after taking in displaced family members and friends, CARE provided 500 home repairs. For survivors who must, for the time being, remain in makeshift shelters, we have supplied 20,000 emergency reinforcement kits, allowing them to make their temporary structures more weather resistant. The kits contain wooden panels, tarps, iron sheets, nails, metal bars, straps and instructions on making repairs. The materials are designed for reuse when families rebuild outside the camps.
Poor infrastructure, including the lack of proper sidewalks and retaining walls, is an impediment to the return of displaced people to permanent neighborhoods.
To help foster the return of displaced people to established communities, in late 2011 CARE began surveying the quality of infrastructure in the densely settled Carrefour neighborhood in Port-au-Prince. We aim to create a better living environment by: empowering community-based organizations; legitimizing informal neighborhoods by reinforcing links with public institutions; developing an urban plan for the community; and improving basic living conditions in the entire neighborhood.
CARE aims to support a community of 5,000 households in southwest Carrefour as they improve their housing conditions, infrastructure and income-generating prospects. Part of our strategy will be to retrofit housing that was designated "yellow" (habitable after repairs) after the quake. A great many of these structures have been reoccupied without adequate repairs. A number of interventions, including a general awareness campaign, homeowner informational events, skilled labor training and mobile construction teams, have been designed to support better building practices.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
The ongoing threat of cholera highlights the importance of safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs. CARE began WASH interventions after the earthquake to support displaced persons, especially those living in spontaneous camps. As residents gradually continue to leave the camps to move into transitional shelters, permanent homes or with host families, the need for services inside the camps has decreased. Consequently, at 51 sites receiving WASH support from CARE at the beginning of 2011, only minimum facilities are remaining in place to address cholera response needs.
CARE recognizes, however, that many people leaving the camps face an even more precarious situation when returning to neighborhoods that lack basic services, including water and sanitation. Thus we continue to focus on transition and recovery actions aimed at helping to create necessary conditions for the displaced to return home.
Highlights of CARE’s emergency WASH activities over the past year include the ongoing delivery of chlorinated water via tankers to 10 vulnerable sites; support of water provision to cholera oral rehydration points and hand-washing stations in Léogâne; construction of 1,093 emergency latrines; and chlorination of well over 1 million cubic meters of water, reaching more than 500,000 people.
As we transition to longer-term recovery, CARE’s WASH team has completed 227 permanent shared family latrines that adjoin CARE-built transitional shelters, with another 23 latrines in the final stage of construction; built or rehabilitated 19 latrines at schools; provided water, sanitation support and public health activities at five schools; begun drilling 19 new wells and rehabilitating five existing wells at school sites, transitional settlements and rural areas; installed a pipeline in Ca Ira and the surrounding Léogâne community, serving water to 4,000 people; and worked to establish school hygiene clubs and hygiene promotion activities.
To ensure sustainability, CARE has collaborated with national and local authorities to establish 15 community water management committees.
The next phase of our longer-term WASH strategy includes support for a nationwide hygiene education program in schools; the construction of water facilities at the Léogâne Maternal and Infant Medical Center; distribution of 3,000 water kits (jerry cans and buckets) to vulnerable families; piloting of low-cost household water purification systems; continued establishment of community-based water management committees on the operation and maintenance of the water systems; and training of six technicians on water system rehabilitation.
To ensure continued access to safe water supplies after the phase-out of CARE’s direct emergency provision of water, we have established a water chlorination forum in communities where CARE is active. The forum includes government water authorities and representatives from water truckers and well owners. To ensure a supply of chlorinated water as long as displaced-persons camps exist, a strategy is in place to transition from free water delivery to payment by camp residents themselves for water trucking.
Food Security, Livelihoods and Economic Development
CARE promotes economic development in areas directly affected by the quake as well as in parts of rural Haiti where survivors have sought refuge – often with extended family who can scarcely afford to support them. CARE directs some support to communities in northwestern Haiti, including Gros Morne and Bassin-Bleu, that host many displaced urbanites.
CARE’s ongoing Urban Horticulture Project is designed to assist about 100 vulnerable women living with HIV/AIDS in Gros Morne with the objective of improving income and nutrition through the production of vegetable gardens. Key activities linked to this project include training in agricultural techniques; the distribution of seeds; and educational sessions on nutrition and family planning.
Another initiative was launched for earthquake-displaced populations and host community members in Bassin-Bleu. The project included cash-for-work opportunities for some 2,800 families. Key activities included repairing 135 kilometers (km.) of agricultural feeder roads and 44 km of irrigation canals; soil conservation work to help protect repaired infrastructure; cleaning 69 km of drainage ditches; and planting 20,000 seedlings and cuttings as part of soil conservation efforts. In keeping with CARE’s policy of gender equity, 49 percent of cash-for-work participants are women. Several participants reported that they are investing income from the project in small livestock, children’s school fees and seeds for the planting season.
The Bassin-Bleu initiative completed operation at the end of August 2011. However, CARE is in discussion with the World Food Program (WFP) about the possibility of continuing food security and livelihoods programming.
CARE continues our shift in economic development programming from relief-based aid to sustainable, market-oriented approaches that work to develop participants into productive, contributing members of their families, communities and the nation as a whole. As well, CARE will be launching a six-month food voucher program for 12,000 households in the Department of Grande Anse.
Expanding upon our current livelihood program, a new project team has recently launched a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) program, a self-help initiative that organizes women to form their own village bank, through which members save and loan money to members to support local initiatives. Based on CARE’s successful experience with VSLA programming – dating back well before the earthquake – we are pioneering additional groups throughout the Grand Anse region and have started forming groups in communities directly affected by the quake or hosting displaced populations, such as Carrefour, Léogâne, Croix des Bouquets and Pernier. CARE is also partnering with local network providers on a telecommunications platform that provides groups a virtual "mobile wallet" to manage their savings.
CARE has supported schools in resuming and improving educational activities – a quick return to normal daily activities is vital to helping children overcome trauma. Among other support, we provided desks and chairs for 79 schools. As Haiti has gradually moved into a post-emergency stage, CARE continues to help 20 schools directly affected by the earthquake in Léogâne and 58 indirectly affected schools – serving displaced children – in the areas of Gonaïves, Gros Morne and Jérémie.Activities include teacher training and the training of adults to provide psychosocial support to children; the creation and support of community structures, such as parents’ committees; and capacity building within the government to help ensure a long-term commitment to education.
Although CARE’s post-quake psychosocial support project officially ended in July 2011, our education team continues to provide this needed service through a new self-esteem program, which places a particular emphasis on reaching the most vulnerable girls in target communities.
Since January 2010, CARE has distributed nearly 20,000 school kits – containing learning materials, notebooks, pencils, hygiene supplies and a T-shirt, packed in a nylon backpack – to students at 78 target schools. Each of these schools also received supplies s
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