ActionAid responds as Haiti struck by 7.2 magnitude earthquake
Life

How the Haiti earthquake is devastating the lives of women and girls and what you can do to help

As the death toll continues to rise after a 7.2-magnititude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, women and girls are being disproportionately affected. Here’s how you can help.

On Saturday 14 August, a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck south-western Haiti at 8.30am local time, leaving many people dead, nearly 10,000 injured and thousands without homes or shelter.

Following the earthquake, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry declared a month-long state of emergency, with the United States Geological Survey issuing a red alert and warning that “high casualties are probable and significant damage is likely.”

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As a number of hospitals have been destroyed and with others left overwhelmed and in urgent need of supplies, the relief effort has been difficult for a country still recovering from a previous earthquake 11 years ago that killed as many as 300,000 people. Heavy rain earlier in the week from Tropical Storm Grace has also hindered the search for survivors.

At present, officials in Haiti have confirmed that at least 2,189 people have died, with an unknown number of people currently missing. However, ActionAid warn that it is expecting the death toll to rise further. Indeed, UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million people, including 540,000 children, have been affected.

Haiti's 7.2 maginitude earthquake has left thousands of people homeless
Thousands of people are now homeless due to the earthquake that struck Haiti, with ActionAid expecting the death toll to rise.

Though devasting for the entire country, according to ActionAid, women and girls are hardest hit by nautral disasters like this as they face gender-specific issues, such as violence against women. But existing problems in the country, such as the recent assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, are worsening the impact that the disaster is having on these groups.

As Angeline Annesteus, country director of ActionAid Haiti, says: “Women and girls are already bearing the brunt of the multiple crises facing Haiti, including rising hunger, political instability and gang violence. The devastating fallout from this earthquake could push many more families into poverty and hunger.”

With many people’s homes being destroyed or damaged, women and children are risking their lives by sleeping on the streets as the threat of landslides and aftershocks persist in the wake of the earthquake.

Alix Percinthe, a field coordinator for ActionAid Haiti in Grand’Anse, has been carrying out urgent needs assessments in the areas of Jérémie and Roseaux and says that most of the injured people he has encountered are women and children. 

“In some villages, I saw that most of the homes were destroyed or damaged. These are poor communities that were already vulnerable,” he says.

“In all areas, people’s most urgent needs are food, water and shelter. Last night, families slept in the street either because they lost their homes, or they were too afraid to stay inside.”

But accessing help isn’t easy as hospitals and places of safety have been damaged too. Percinthe found that five health centres in Corail, Carrefour Charles, Duchity, Latiboliere and Pestel had all been destroyed, meaning that resources were becoming extremely stretched.

As a result, women and women-led organisations have been helping the emergency response efforts in order to respond to the specific needs of women and girls and can be found running women’s protection services and providing first aid support at safe spaces in Roseaux and Beaumont.

Charities and NGOs need your help when it comes to providing relief to fund rescue missions, provide clean water and hygiene kits and ensure that those in need of treatment receive the care they require.

Here’s how you can do your bit:

ActionAid

ActionAid has set up an emergency appeal to help response teams on the ground. The charity aims to assist at least 2,000 households affected by the earthquake with shelter, emergency food, blankets, hygiene kits, cash support protection services for women and girls and psychosocial support for children and their families.

“We are assessing what people need most urgently and preparing to respond by providing food, temporary shelter and essential items such as blankets and hygiene kits for women and girls,” says Annesteus.

You can make a donation on the ActionAid website.

Save the Children

The UN estimates that over 250,000 children in Haiti have been affected by the earthquake.

Children’s charity Save the Children has nutrition, education and child protection programmes in the country and is preparing its emergency response teams. When responding to an earthquake, Save the Children distribute shelter, water and hygiene items and provide children with a safe space to learn and receive emotional support.

You can make a donation on the Save the Children website.

Hope for Haiti

Hope for Haiti is distributing emergency kits to vulnerable individuals and families in Les Cayes. As part of the recovery efforts, Hope for Haiti is aiming to distribute medication and medical supplies, give 75,000 Haitians access to clean water, deliver 50,000 health consultations and provide grants and financial education to businesses.

You can make a donation on the Hope for Haiti website.

Images: ActionAid

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