Two years after a catastrophic earthquake brought death and destruction to communities in and around Haiti’s capital — tearing apart families, infrastructure and the economy — the country still faces enormous obstacles on the road to recovery and rebuilding.
“Aid agencies and donors should take heart in the work they’ve done to help Haitians respond to this unprecedented disaster,” said Beat Rohr, CARE’s country director in Haiti. “Anyone who has seen Haiti up-close, or even just images of Haiti, knows we’re only at the beginning of a long journey.”
Shortly after the earthquake, CARE made a five-year, $100 million commitment to help Haitians rebuild their lives and communities. Working closely with the Haitian government and community leaders, CARE is focused on efforts to improve shelters, water and sanitation, health, education, livelihoods and the economic development. Our economic development activities focus on women because they were disproportionately affected by the earthquake and its aftermath.
In leveled communities across Haiti, women worked tirelessly alongside men to support survivors. Still, many women have felt excluded from the reconstruction process, which has been hampered by political gridlock.
“Women leaders across Haiti say much more needs to be done, at high levels and at the ground level, to include women and their priorities,” said Carolina Cordero, assistant country director for CARE in Haiti. “Their voices are critically important and they must be heard.”
Women and girls also have been regularly targeted for sexual violence and, in too many cases, left without obstetric care. CARE has responded by building community centers where women can safely discuss gender violence issues, reproductive health, and other topics of concern.
CARE also is supporting the progress made by local officials in Haiti. “In Carrefour, police have committed to assigning female officers to sexual assault cases,” Cordero said. “That may sound like a small step. But it’s an important one in a country whose recovery depends on thousands of people making small steps together every day.”
In the wake of the disaster, CARE’s emergency response team delivered life-saving food, water, shelter and other vital services to 290,000 Haitians most in need in Lêogâne and Carrefour. CARE also built 2,400 transitional shelters to house roughly 13,400 people and built and rehabilitated 2,500 latrines and showers.
CARE still offers life-saving supplies and services to Haitians most in need, but many of CARE’s programs have transitioned from earthquake recovery to long-term rebuilding. CARE’s Neighborhoods of Return program, for example, is working with 5,000 households in Carrefour to improve sanitation, education, safety and income opportunities. The objective is to create more hospitable conditions in targeted communities that will then attract people still living in tent camps. Helping people leave tent camps is one of the Haitian government’s highest priorities.
CARE also has launched Savings and Loans Associations, in Carrefour and other parts of Haiti whereby participants grow their personal savings as well as get loans to start small businesses.
“The first participants in our Carrefour these associations were also participants in a CARE program to combat gender-based violence,” Rohr said. “Now we’re helping them take another step and build financial resources for themselves and their families.”