Recovery in sight for Haiti

A level of normality is returning to Haiti two years after a massive earthquake brought the country to its knees.

Christian development agency Tearfund said recovery is in sight despite the huge challenges the country has faced in rebuilding after the 7.0-magnitude quake struck two years ago to the day.

“It has been an extremely difficult two years for the people of Haiti,” says Jean Claude Cerin, Tearfund Country Representative for Haiti.

“The lasting devastation caused by the earthquake, the cholera outbreak and political instability has meant Haitians have been living under very tough conditions."

An estimated 230,000 people were killed in the earthquake when it struck close to capital Port au Prince on 12 January 2010.

More than two million people were left homeless and another 6,500 people died when cholera swept through the camps and shattered communities.

Tearfund praised the efforts of humanitarian agencies, and the resilience and determination of Haitians in driving towards a full recovery.

“Despite these challenges, it is encouraging to see the progress made to restore communities and rebuild livelihoods," Cerin continued.

"Housing activities and community initiatives are getting people out of camps and into homes and shelters.

"Economic recovery is slow but is happening."

There are still an estimated 500,000 people living in camps, many of whom are facing forced eviction, Tearfund warned.

Efforts to rehouse them have been frustrated by issues like rubble clearance, damaged infrastructure, and the difficult process of identifying land ownership after the earthquake.

Churches were quick to provide shelter and food in the aftermath of the disaster, and many have committed to long-term support in the form of children's education, counselling and healthcare.

Phanette Banatte Piard, 37, is one of thousands of survivors helped by a Tearfund partner agency.

She lost the use of both legs as a result of injuries sustained during the earthquake but received a cash grant towards her medical care and is making remarkable progress in her recovery. Following the recent birth of her daughter, she is even more optimistic about the future.

“Now my daughter has given a new sense to my life,” says Phanette. “Becoming a mother and a parent gives me even more determination to continue to live after God protected my life when I was under the rubbles. Halleluia!

“And another miracle has happened. I can walk again! First, I started practicing with a walker and then with only a cane and now little by little, I can abandon even the cane and walk on my own.”

Tearfund also provided support to neglected rural areas, training up local carpenters who have since built 315 semi-permanent shelters and repaired 119 homes to disaster-resistant standards.

Kristie van de Wetering, Tearfund’s Earthquake Programme Director in Haiti said: "We have equipped communities with the knowledge and resources to reduce their risk in the event of future disasters.”

In addition to providing shelter, Tearfund has supported more than 100 rural schools with teacher training and the construction of transitional classrooms. Natural springs have been restored and latrines provided for over 9,000 school children, accompanied by activities to promote good hygiene.

Habitat for Humanity is also continuing its construction work on permanent housing for more than 200,000 victims.

When the quake struck, the charity launched a five-year project to help 50,000 families and has since provided emergency and transitional shelters, distributed shelter kits, and created employment opportunities.

The latest phase of assistance is in the construction of permanent housing that will be better able to withstand future quakes.

Rosemie Dodo, 26, is helping to build the permanent home being provided for her by the charity.

She said: "I want [my children] to go to school and have a happy life, have a better life."

Around a million survivors have been able to leave the camps, schools have been repaired, and employment has picked up again, but Habitat for Humanity said the situation for many is still "dire".

Support from the international community remains "vital" if Haiti is to meet the challenge of housing the half million people still homeless.

Ian Walkden, National Director of Habitat for Humanity said, “Habitat for Humanity has a long-term view of its work in Haiti.

"We are committed to remaining in the country for years to come and reaching more families in desperate need of safe and decent permanent shelter.

"In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake our aim was to get as many people as possible into temporary shelter, but now we need to help families rebuild earthquake resistant, permanent homes.”