Haitian Earthquake: Five years on

January 9, 2015
Photo by Kim Haughton

January 12 marks fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Concern continues to find permanent homes for those still displaced.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shredded Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, and the surrounding areas. The most recent Haitian government data estimates that 316,000 people were killed, though the exact death toll is unknown. Some 1.5 million people were left homeless and settled beneath tarps and timber in what became known as “tent cities.” Sixty-five percent of the country’s administrative, economic, and government infrastructure was decimated. Rubble clogged the streets.

The world responded with unprecedented generosity. Concern Worldwide, which has worked in Haiti since 1994, immediately launched a response. Because we worked closely with some of Port-au-Prince’s poorest and most vulnerable communities prior to the earthquake, our teams were able to consult with people immediately to understand what they needed most. In the hours, days, and weeks that followed, we reached some 130,000 people with emergency relief that included clean water, sanitation, shelter, and other supplies, as well as services such as treatment for malnutrition.

Some 1.5 million people were left homeless and settled beneath tarps and timber in what became known as “tent cities.”

In the past five years, significant progress has been made to help Haiti recover from the earthquake. Rubble has been cleared from the streets, malnutrition has declined, and school enrollment has improved. Ninety-five percent of the displaced have returned to permanent homes. However, the challenges facing Haiti are many and complex. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and much of the population earns less than $2 a day. Many of the problems we see today are also the result of chronic poverty and long-standing underdevelopment rather than the earthquake alone.

The world responded with unprecedented generosity. Concern Worldwide, which has worked in Haiti since 1994, immediately launched a response.

Concern Worldwide continues to work in some of Haiti’s most impoverished and vulnerable communities. As the emergency needs in Haiti have subsided, our programs now focus on creating livelihoods opportunities, improving infrastructure, and promoting basic literacy and numeracy skills in schools. We are also helping families still displaced by the earthquake find and afford permanent homes—an initiative begun in 2010 that has moved more than 7,000 families out of camps.

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Concern’s Peter McNichol, Haiti’s Country Director, writes of Haitians’ resilience and willpower, five years after the quake.

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Concern Worldwide’s Ed Kenney went to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and stayed for six months, working on the emergency response. Below, he visits Place de la Paix, which at one stage was home to 15,000 displaced people. Concern’s “Return to Neighborhoods” program has helped to resettle tens of thousands of people over the past five years.