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Haiti

The people of Haiti have endured extreme consequences from several types of hazards. Between 2000 and 2019, natural disasters took more lives on their island nation (per million people) than in any other country.​ Recent disasters–the 2008 tropical cyclones and floods, the 2010 earthquake near Port-au-Prince, 2016 Hurricane Matthew, 2018 Port-de-Paix earthquake, and the 2021 earthquake in the South–significantly damaged housing, schools, and health facilities. Shortages already existed, and the building stock still has not yet recovered.

 

The multiple hazards in Haiti create compounding impacts. For example, Hurricane Matthew brought catastrophic damage in the South. 

People were still rebuilding from the hurricane in 2021 when a M7.2 earthquake damaged 84,000 more homes and 1,250 schools. Three days later, a tropical storm passed over and likely amplified the landsliding. Landslides triggered by the earthquake blocked roads and totally isolated an estimated 407,000 residents.  

 

Although the current sociopolitical situation is difficult, Haitian people are rich with talent and self-determination, especially at the local level. This is why our Haiti staff work side-by-side within their communities to advance local disaster management. We focus on locations where our staff members are based: the north coast cities of Cap-Haitien and Port-de-Paix since 2013, and Anse-A-Veau on the more rural Southern Peninsula since 2016. 

 

In the North, a major fault off the coast could generate a powerful earthquake and within minutes send lethal tsunami waves into densely packed neighborhoods. Hurricanes, storm surge, coastal erosion, and sea level rise also bring routine flooding that increases hardships. The Southern Peninsula is where hurricanes more frequently make landfall, and active faults have recently generated strong earthquakes. 

 

Our programs are helping communities to be more resilient in future events and to build back better from past events. Our multi-year efforts in Haiti focus on:  

 

Bringing awareness of the risk to the people that will be affected: Before the 2010 earthquake, awareness of seismic and tsunami risk was low. People in the North were not even thinking about tsunamis, since the last devastating event was in 1842. People in the South were increasingly frightened by a swarm of small earthquakes. Our Haiti team’s outreach has increased local dialogue about disaster threats, and they continue to demonstrate how to mitigate earthquake, tsunami, landslide, hurricane, and flood risk. Our goal is for Haitian people to be much better informed about their ability to take action and prepare for multiple hazards. 

 

Engaging youth in disaster resilience: Youth account for 50% of Haiti’s population, and they can have a powerful voice for action. Our youth-driven Ti moun an Aksyon (Kids in Action) club in Cap-Haitien played a key role in activities led by our local team, disaster-themed performances, evacuation planning, and city-wide tsunami drills, particularly for the thousands of children who attend schools in the tsunami  inundation zone. 

 

Promoting the safety and quality of school buildings: Haiti’s school infrastructure is in dire condition, with a high percentage of facilities lost to disasters, the majority poorly maintained, and the system not able to accommodate all youth of school age. To inform government planning, our team conducted a nationwide study that documented hazard vulnerabilities, threats from climate change, and functional deficiencies of Haiti’s schools. In the South, our team built a disaster-resilient school that integrated training for builders in small companies, so that an expanded  pool of builders has the capability to construct more and safer schools.

 

Recovering from disasters and building back better: After the 2021 earthquake, our local staff member led a program that trained community people to rapidly collect on-the-ground building damage data with a mobile application, which was analyzed by remote structural engineers. This hybrid approach enabled a quick assessment of needs and supported fast response. A second group of trainees visited remote communities and shared public awareness about aftershocks and how to build with seismic resistant features. Our technical team has researched how to enable faster self recovery of housing and the systems needed to support it, such as materials supply chain, reforestation, and training of builders in small companies to construct standard plan houses. 

GeoHazards International in Haiti: Haitian staff members have been working in Cap-Haïtien in the North since 2013, and Anse-á-Veau in the South since 2016. 

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