By Olivia Laramie, PWW Student Intern
Eight years ago today (January 12, 2010) a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the small island nation of Haiti. Estimates of the death toll vary but a raw estimate by Lonely Planet reported 230,000 people killed and about 300,000 injured. Access to the affected areas was difficult due to the damaged airport and destroyed rubble roads. An estimated 2.3 million people were displaced. The world responded with aid, with the largest portion of monetary relief coming from Venezuela and the United States. By March, a conference of international donors in New York raised $5.5 billion.
At Pure Water for the World (PWW), we work closely with the population of people heavily impacted by this disaster. While our work in Haiti, which began in 2008, has always been safe water and hygiene programming, the earthquake quickly shifted our focus to disaster relief and emergency aid.
Laura Guerrier was the resident Data Clerk in our Haiti office in 2010. She experienced the earthquake firsthand but was lucky to find herself uninjured. Her family, however, faced injuries and the loss of their home. “I thought I would lose my job at PWW, but after one week we started emergency activities,” Guerrier said. She remembers seeing every staff member arriving back at the office as soon as they could.
Ramy Pierette, a technician at the Haiti office, was locked in his room during the initial shock. “When I left home, I went to the deputy director [of PWW in Haiti], Roman, and, together, we started to take wounded to the hospital,” said Pierette. He, too, worried about his job but was back to work after one week, where his initial focus was to treat water and replace damaged filters for beneficiaries.
PWW staff jumped into action, despite their personal losses, grief, and fear, providing aid to earthquake victims through water trucking, water filter and hygiene kit distribution, water treatment, toilet and rain water harvesting systems construction with Save the Children, and training on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Our main focus was on supporting marginalized and vulnerable communities and groups, including regions such as Delmas, Cité Soleil, and Sarthe, as well as support for mothers and children.
In Cité Soleil (the largest slum in Haiti), only local organizations were allowed to enter into the area to help. As PWW had an established presence in the area, implementing safe water programs in schools and clinics, our team was able to deliver a great deal of aid to this heavily impacted community.
Today, eight years later, we continue our work of collaborating with underserved communities throughout Haiti to proactively deliver safe water and hygiene programs to vulnerable children and families. We empower the same community members we supported after the earthquake by providing them with the essential tools and knowledge to protect themselves for years to come. Immediately following emergency response, PWW held activities that continue to promote behavior change and life saving tactics to help populations in the long term.
Haiti has not been without hardship since the earthquake of 2010, though. Unfortunately, cholera was introduced into the country by earthquake aid workers in the fall of 2010, which posed an even greater threat to the Haitian people. Our team has continued to work diligently to empower families with the critical tools and education to protect themselves from deadly cholera, as well as the other harmful pathogens that continue to contaminate their water sources.
When Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in 2016, we quickly realized the critical need for WASH training in emergency situations. We created the Emergency WASH (E-WASH) program, aimed at community agents and NGO (nongovernmental organization) workers, to teach them better ways to implement WASH programs in Haiti following an emergency.
To date, we have installed 9,406 filters in homes and 1,946 filters in schools. We have lead 188 WASH workshops with 571 participants from other like organizations.
We are inspired daily by the resilience of the people of Haiti – especially in the face of considerable hardship. PWW is committed to helping them protect their families, working with communities to bring safe water solutions to their homes and schools.
On this anniversary of the earthquake that rocked the lives of so many Haitian people, we invite you to consider joining us in providing the tools and education to prevent waterborne diseases and deaths. A donation of just $25 to protect the future of a vulnerable child in Haiti. You can help protect an entire family for just $300. Click here to help empower Haitians.