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How CAFOD responded to the 2010 Haiti earthquake

1 January 2018
haiti cathedral

The Catholic Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, after the earthquake.

On the evening of Tuesday 12 January 2010, a major earthquake hit Haiti, measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. The earthquake struck just 10 miles south-west of the bustling capital Port-au-Prince and was so strong that many buildings including the national palace, the cathedral and the headquarters of the UN peacekeepers collapsed.

It is believed that more than 230,000 people died. This was the strongest earthquake that Haiti has experienced in more than 200 years.

How did CAFOD respond to the 2010 earthquake?

In response to our Haiti earthquake appeal, CAFOD supporters raised a remarkable £5.4 million.

As soon as the earthquake struck

We provided:

  • Tents, shelters or emergency kits for 11,000 people who lost their homes

  • Shower blocks, latrines and safe water supplies for more than 50,000 people living in five camps

  • Protection and food for vulnerable children “Child-friendly spaces” in camps to make sure children stayed safe, and supplementary food to prevent children becoming malnourished

Rebuilding homes

We provided:

  • Permanent, disaster-proof housing for people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, as well as in Jacmel in the south of Haiti and in the Gressier district. We have trained local engineers to carry out the reconstruction work.

Controlling the spread of disease

We provided:

  • Latrines and safe water supplies for more than 50,000 people moving back into more permanent shelters.

  • New cholera units in seven hospitalsLinkand specialist water systems to prevent the spread of disease

  • Training on water, sanitation and how to prevent disease spreading in camps, schools and villages

Preparing for the future

We provided:

  • Disaster planning and preparedness projects to make sure people are better prepared for future disasters. For example, we have trained farmers to create natural barriers that reduce the risk of landslides in future earthquakes.

  • Support for new businesses for people who lost everything, helping to ensure that they no longer rely on handouts

  • Support for local Church organisations - We have helped our local Church partners to rebuild their offices and operate once again, so that they can lead their country’s recovery

  • Immediate support in new emergencies - When Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016, we provided emergency aid for those affected.

What were the humanitarian needs?

The majority of camps for people who lost their homes in the earthquake have now been closed. However, many people are still living in tents or in ramshackle temporary shelters, and more work needs to be done to provide permanent homes and safer communities. Other pressing needs include ensuring that people have opportunities to make a living, especially displaced people outside of Port-au-Prince; continuing to improve water and sanitation provision, linked with health promotion campaigns; and treatment centres to contain a major cholera outbreak. Natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew, Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Sandy, have added to the crisis, destroying crops as well as people’s homes.

Find out about how CAFOD responds to emergencies around the world

Who are CAFOD's partners?

Our emergency response in Haiti was co-ordinated with Caritas Haiti and the Caritas International Federation – a group of Catholic Church agencies from around the world. Our principal local partner was Caritas Haiti, which has a presence in every community, parish and diocese of the country. We have worked closely with our international sister agencies Catholic Relief Services from the US and Caritas Switzerland, who had existing programmes in Haiti and who were well positioned to respond to this crisis. We also worked with Progressio, a faith-based organisation, as well as Service des Jesuits pour les Refugiées et les Migrants (SJRM), who work with displaced and resettled communities to ensure community integration. We provided support to local partners such as the Diocesan Education Office in Port au Prince and the Centre d’Appui Pedagogique, who taught children and teachers in 89 schools across Port-au-Prince about how to react in the event of a future earthquake or hurricane.

How did you help the people of Haiti to rebuild in the long term and to be better prepared for another emergency?

We worked to provide permanent housing that is resistant to earthquakes and hurricanes, and funding the training of many teams of local engineers to help with the construction process. Our local partners also implemented Disaster Risk Reduction projects, which will ensure a stronger capacity for communities and organisations to ‘bounce back’ from future disasters.

How did you involve the local authorities in the reconstruction effort?

We worked with strong local partners in the field. These local organisations worked directly with the Haitian authorities. Local authorities were present in the needs assessment, planning and implementation of activities.

How did CAFOD respond to the cholera outbreak?

We supported projects engaged in the prevention and response to cholera as it has become endemic in the country. These included support to cholera treatment centres as well as the provision of water and sanitation services and health education which should break the spread of the disease. 

How long have you been working in Haiti and what have you been doing?

We have worked in Haiti since 1970. During that time we have supported a wide range of development projects including work on literacy, agriculture, women’s organisations and legal aid. We have a lot of experience in supporting emergency response programmes through our partners in Haiti, including the relief efforts following Hurricanes Gustav and Hanna in 2008.

How much of my donation went directly to people in Haiti?

One hundred per cent of donations received, together with any gift aid recovered, were credited to the Haiti Appeal Fund. From this, 88p in every pound has been spent directly on the work of our partners in Haiti and the programme costs of our humanitarian response. A further 10p in every pound was used to cover the costs of existing staff from across CAFOD working on supporting the response, and 2p is used to raise money for the people of Haiti.

Make a regular donation to CAFOD's humanitarian emergency work

2021 Haiti earthquake

A devastating magnitude-7.2 earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday 14 August 2021. In the aftermath, CAFOD worked with local Church organisations to provide urgent humanitarian aid for families.

Find out more