“I was on a car when suddenly I saw people running, falling on the ground and a lot of dust, I couldn't immediately understand why it was so dusty. In the following minutes I when houses started to collapse and crack that I knew that was an earthquake. I was panicked, petrified and puzzled.” Ifanise (23 year old), a young volunteer at Plan International living in the southern region of the country, describes her experience during the impact of Saturday's earthquake in Haiti.
On her way back home, after the quake, Ifanise couldn’t believe how everything looked different just 40 minutes after she had passed by in the same area. “There was a very big difference between what I left 40 minutes earlier and what I saw when I got back to the town. I am still perplexed about what I feel, it’s difficult to find the word to explain it. When you see a mother lose 2, 3, children at the same time. When you see people ask for help while you are helpless.”
Haiti was stroked by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Saturday 14 in the southwestern region at 8:30am local time at a depth of around 10km. The epicentre was recorded around 12km northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud. Nearly 46,000 homes have been damaged and approximately 1,941 people were reported death and 9,900 wounded (As 17 August 2021).
This disaster comes at a time when Haiti – one of the poorest countries in the Americas, was already struggling with an extremely fragile political situation, with health services stretched by cases of COVID-19 and widespread hunger as a result of soaring food prices.
People in the south are traumatized, and do not have the means to respond to their survival and those of their children. Now they are not only dealing with this earthquake but also with floods caused by tropical storm Grace.
“It's hard that after 2 days while people are sleeping in the street without even a tent, now they have to face the cyclone “Grace". Some people decide to stay in the street even if it is raining and other get back to theirs cracked houses” said Ifanise
In emergencies like this, children get disturbed because they lose their sense of security and stability specially when they are separated of their families or lose a family member due to the disaster.
“There is a limit to what communities can endure, and it is important that we make sure children are emotionally supported. Protection services for children and emotional care and support should be a priority. Our experience shows that children, especially girls, women and the poorest families are the hardest hit is such crises settings” said Eulalia Scutt, Acting Country Director, Plan International Haiti.
We are urgently working to assess needs in the areas which were hit hardest by Saturday’s earthquake, which include the departments of Nippes, Sud and Grand-Anse, closest to the epicentre. Although these aren’t areas where we currently have programmes, we have experience of working there after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, said Eulalia Scutt.
Plan International, which has worked in Haiti for many years, has experienced staff in the country. We are monitoring the situation and working urgently to assess needs, and stand ready to provide support.