HAITI: 2 years after earthquake
HAITI | Camps 18 months after the earthquake. Copyright by Martin Bandžák/MAGNA)
Today are two years have passed since the big disaster in Haiti– the earthquake that claimed over 300 thousand lives. 1,5 million people were left homeless including 380 thousand children. The damage brought on by this natural disaster was enormous.
Two years after this disaster the life in Haiti is no better. The country is still struck by poverty, the health care system is still in the state of collapse, and the country is not safe for people, especially after dark. The darkness which comes very early in Haiti – already 5.30 p.m. – evokes violence, conflicts and crime. Over half million homeless people still remain in muddy camps lacking privacy, space, water and sanitation, exposed to diseases and violence. Thousands of survivors of this disastrous earthquake suffer from depression and posttraumatic stress.
“They were directly confronted with destruction and death, they saw dead bodies being dug out from the debris and then buried. They lost their parents, siblings, relatives; many have lost their home, were raped or faced the fear of cholera contagion. Because their experience is dramatic, extreme, sudden and even potentially life threatening, it is imprinted in their memory and becomes a disorder with which one has to live. Memories of frightening events influence the person’s thoughts and feelings. Among long term after-effects are fear, vulnerability, depression, anger, sleep disorders as well as a repeated and uncontrollable reliving of the event” says Denisa Augustínová the operation section director of Magna Children at Risk.
Solidarity and collective grief came to an end, the criminal gangs that endanger people’s lives, rape women and even children have returned. The camps that came into existence two years ago as a temporary retreat for earthquake victims and people who lost everything, became a “permanent” retreat and unfortunately due to bad security also very dangerous places for women.
Sexual violence was a serious problem in Haiti even before the earthquake. Since the earthquake, the situation of girls and women from the poor neighborhoods has become even worse. Rape had not even been a crime in Haiti until 2005. It had only been an “offence against a woman’s honor“ punishable by a financial fine !
“We encounter cases, when raped girls are being blamed with promiscuity and provoking, taking risks and their own responsibility for the crime. The effect of this on the child victims’ parents is the worst.” explains Esther Delaire Magna’s therapist, who works mostly with child and adolescent victims.
In addition to the psychosocial and medical help for earthquake victims which is carried out by Magna´s teams in 4 tent camps and the Fame Pere medical center in Port-au-Prince, Magna Children at Risk is also dealing through their qualified field workers with women victims of these despicable crimes.
Magna’s workers are providing information about diseases (HIV / AIDS) and helping the victims to cope with the traumatic experience through directly talking about it. They are teaching ways of coping with the posttraumatic stress syndrome. In addition to psychosocial help programs Magna is also working on the construction of a health center for mothers with children in Port-au –Prince, with financial help from Slovakaid.
In March 2011 Magna was assisting with the distribution of humanitarian shipment sent to Haiti by the Slovak Republic directly after the earthquake (February 2010). The aid was in total value of 184.000,-EUR (tents, clothing, kitchen material etc.) It was distributed to inhabitants of tent camps Solin, Aviation, Corvington, IMPASSE 138 and for HIV / AIDS patients registered in the Fame Pere center.
In June 2010 the end of the emergency situation was officially proclaimed and the country was pronounced to be transformed to the “recovery and reconstruction” stage. Hundreds of foreign humanitarian agencies left Haiti. Magna with its aid projects stays on in Haiti. There are still people living in unimaginable conditions and in need of emergency help, even though the media no longer report about this topic.
MAGNA has been active in Haiti since 2010. It has a team of 11 workers there at present.