* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Haiti remains poor with a still fragile education system, poor and expensive health services and high unemployment
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Continued investment, especially in children and young people, is needed in Haiti, nearly five years after the deadly earthquake reduced it to rubble, says child rights and humanitarian organisation Plan International.
On January 12, 2010, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere was struck with a 7.0 magnitude earthquake near its capital Port-au-Prince, affecting 3.5 million people, killing an estimated 220,000 people and destroying or damaging 4,000 schools.
Five years on, the landscape is very different.
Now, most of the estimated 19 million cubic metres of rubble generated by the earthquake is gone. Over one million people – some 10% of the entire population of Haiti - made homeless by the earthquake have been rehoused after living in camps since the earthquake.
Roads, especially in Port-au-Prince, have been repaired and many paved for the first time. Houses damaged by the earthquake have been rebuilt and small businesses have multiplied. Several international standard hotels and large supermarkets have also been constructed.
Plan was at the forefront of the emergency response, rebuilding schools and setting up child friendly spaces, to ensure children were able to access psychosocial support in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
John Chaloner, Plan International in Haiti’s Country Director, says:
“The collapse of the education system, with about half the schools in the country being affected by the earthquake, has been reversed and today there are more children in school, at least at the primary school level, than ever before. This is thanks, in part, to organisations such as Plan International who supported schools throughout the rebuilding process.”
However, it was the people of Haiti that made the real difference, says John.
“The Haitian Government, huge amounts of cash, donors, the alphabet soup of UN agencies and international NGOs, plus a cacophony of other aid groups contributed to the recovery to date but, as could be argued is always the case in such times of crisis, it is ordinary people who prove themselves extraordinary.”
Plan ensured all of its efforts were focused on lifting people out of poverty – particularly young people and women.
However, the country remains poor with a still fragile education system, poor and expensive health services and high unemployment.
There is still work to be done, says John, and Plan remains committed to helping those who are most vulnerable and in need, in order to break the cycle of poverty and disaster vulnerability.
One example of how Plan is working now working with young women is through the youth clubs it runs for them. There, they have the opportunity to learn livelihood skills, such as sewing, gardening and farming.
The club, which is part of Plan’s ‘Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescent girls and Young Women Project’, aims to create confidence, a sense of self worth and improve the quality of life for girls and young women.
Projects such as these have had a lasting impact on communities, as women are now able to generate an income from their own business.
Eva, 27, from Haiti, lost many of her friends and relatives in the earthquake, but was able to find hope through one of Plan’s projects.
“In 2010, I was a vulnerable woman. Now I am independent,” says Eva. “Thanks to this project, I now have a purpose in life. It has showed me that I am capable of being independent and finding ways to make my own money.”
Interviews with Plan Haiti’s Country Director John Chaloner are available, as are further case studies and photos. For further details, please contact:
HQ: Angela Singh, Global Press Officer, Plan International
Mobile: +44 (0) 1483 733 337
Founded 77 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations. www.plan-international.org