Six months on
It has now been six months since the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Thousands of parents were killed during the quake, leaving their children alone and scared. With your help, we have been able to offer shelter, love and support to hundreds of children who were orphaned or separated from their families. We have also provided thousands of families in the community with food, medicine and clothing.
The 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles west of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on January 12, killing more than 220,000 people and leaving at least one million homeless. Together with long-term political strife, a severely depressed economy and recent damage caused by strong hurricanes, this catastrophe exacerbated the already miserable situation for Haiti’s children.
Of course, when the earthquake struck, SOS Children was already there. We have been present in Haiti since 1978 and have two Children’s Villages, in Santo (just outside Port-au-Prince) and Cap Haïtien (in the north of the country), which were already home to more than 400 children. We also have two SOS Youth Homes; two SOS Schools; one SOS Vocational Training Centre and four Social Centres, from which Family Strengthening Programmes are run.
What we’re doing in SOS Children’s Village Santo:
- Providing emergency shelter for 300 extra children, who have no parental care, in our SOS families and temporary shelters with support from UNICEF and the German Red Cross. SOS mothers are now caring for 15 to 20 children, rather than the usual 7 to 9
- In conjunction with UNICEF, we are trying to reunite children with their families, a process which could take up to 12 months. So far, we have reunited 65 children with their families
- Providing SOS staff that lost their homes with temporary housing. We will support them during the reconstruction of their houses
- In partnership with the Dominican Government and the Red Cross, we have transformed the Village football ground into an emergency medical clinic used by those in the Village and the local community. Hundreds of children and adults have received medical assistance at this clinic
- A guest apartment in the Village has been converted into a small clinic where three nurses monitor the health of the children
- Tents on the Village site are being used as a base to care for children during the day with a focus on play activities. Many of the children have been directly confronted with destruction and death, so it is our goal to provide a little bit of ‘normality’ in a protected and safe environment
- Providing emotional and psychological support to the children. We have employed five psychologists to work with the children
- Additional teachers have been hired to work at the SOS School which re-opened in late April. The education sector was particularly hard-hit by the quake, with several thousand schools destroyed or damaged and around 530 teachers killed. So, along with the 550 children who attended the school before the earthquake, there will be an additional 300 children
- We have employed 125 new local employees and volunteers including cooks, carers, psychologists, social workers and translators.
We have also constructed prefabricated houses (also known as 'Global Village Shelters') in the grounds of the SOS Children's Village (pictured left). The polypropylene shelters will house families of eight to ten children and their SOS mothers for the years to come. The shelters set a new standard for mid-term emergency housing. Unlike temporary tents, they are rigid, fully enclosed structures, complete with doors and windows. The 226-square foot shelters will function as single-family homes and/or larger community facilities and the smaller 67-square foot ones will be used as showers and latrines. As the rainy season of Haiti descends, the shelters
will remain dry and secure and are intended to be used for three to five years.
What we’re doing in the community:
- Tonnes of food, water, medicine, tents and fuel have been brought to Haiti, co-ordinated by SOS Children in Dominican Republic
- SOS staff visit orphanages and temporary sites every day to assess the needs and numbers of particularly vulnerable children. Community leaders have been asked to refer any unaccompanied children to us
- Providing food supplies, hygiene products and kitchen appliances to families participating in our Family Strengthening Programmes in addition to providing childcare for parents and relatives who need to rebuild their homes
- Working through 101 food distribution centres and 16 community centres to help 13,150 children and families every week
- Taking part in UN ‘cluster meetings’ as well as many partnerships and joint initiatives with other aid organisations and the local authorities.
Read the latest Family Matters Magazine: A Special Report from Haiti