The wave of solidarity that followed the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti on 12 January 2010, was huge: including in Switzerland. “Swiss Solidarity" was keen to know what had been achieved in the impoverished Caribbean country with the 66 million francs it had raised.
After the powerful earthquake that brought destruction and chaos to Haiti in early 2010, «Swiss Solidarity» raised 66.2 million francs through a nationwide appeal for donations to help the suffering population. Between 2010 and 2018, altogether 91 projects were funded from the donations received, covering areas such as livelihoods, dwellings, water, sanitary facilities, as well as risk and disaster management. Benefitting more than 12 million people altogether, the projects were implemented by 21 Swiss NGOs including HEKS/EPER.
How HEKS/EPER assisted
Immediately after the earthquake, HEKS/EPER set up street kitchens in the capital and, with the help of local people, prepared 3000 warm meals daily for 100 days. In Petit Goâve, which was close to the epicentre, HEKS/EPER built 406 new houses. In Grand‘Anse, HEKS/EPER supported families who had taken in returning relatives. They were given seeds and tools in order to grow more bananas, vegetables and rice. More than a thousand children received a scholarship in order to attend school.
Ten years after the quake «Swiss Solidarity» commissioned an impact analysis in order to account for the use of the donations collected and draw lessons from the experiences gained. Between May and October 2019, over 500 households were visited by trained interviewers and another 500 beneficiaries were surveyed at group meetings in over 50 villages. The findings show that the help provided thanks to the generosity of the Swiss people had largely achieved its goals.
Some 90 per cent of the respondents believe that the projects enabled them to meet their basic needs and restore their livelihoods. All of the 2’700 houses funded by «Swiss Solidarity» were classified as sustainable and earthquake-resistant. Some 95 per cent of the recipients of those dwellings are still living in them and the vast majority feel secure in their homes.
In addition, the study, found it especially positive that the local people had been largely taken on board in the implementation of the projects and that upon the termination of projects it was ensured that the work could continue in the framework of local structures.
While the project was indeed able to meet the most urgent needs, securing livelihoods for the long term remains a challenge, given the difficult day-to-day economic situation in Haiti. Only very few participants in vocational training programmes, for instance, have been able to find long-term work.
This study was also critical of the fact that the projects did not make cash handouts to the population. This would have allowed them greater flexibility in meeting their own needs – and would simultaneously also have stimulated local markets. The lessons learned will now be factored into the formulation of future «Swiss Solidarity» guidelines for earthquake situations.
Today, ten years after the earthquake, HEKS/EPER is still present in Haiti, bringing some hope for a better future to a population suffering from ongoing violent unrest and a catastrophic economic and social situation.