On January 12, 2010, a 7.0Mw earthquake hit Leogone, Haiti, a town 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Three million people were affected by the earthquake – between 217,000 and 230,000 died, and 300,000 were left injured. Two hundred fifty thousand homes were destroyed as well as thirty thousand commercial building, leaving one million people homeless.
Less than a week after the initial earthquake, relief organizations and world governments had distributed 130,000 food packets and 70,000 water containers to Haitians. By January 20, over 20 countries had sent military personnel to Haiti and organizations such as the International Red Cross, American Red Cross, Save the Children, Partners in Health, and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Boarders) had large contingents of people working in Haiti.
The island of La Gonave also suffered significant damage despite their distance from the epicenter. Around 20,000 homes need to be rebuilt, 725 people died, and 285 were injured. Miraculously, no one directly connected to Gran Sous, where Roots is most involved, died as a result of the earthquake.
Currently, the biggest problem on La Gonave is the drastic decrease in overall access to food, leaving thousands wondering when their next meal will be. The number of refugees and the price of food have increased exponentially. Around 30,000 refugees fled to La Gonave a few days after the earthquake, with 400 alone making it to the community of Gran Sous.
Roots of Development’s Director, Chad Bissonnette, traveled to Haiti last month to help acquire and distribute food to Gran Sous and several neighboring communities. Gran Sous’ community development group, ADAG, and Bissonnette brought 10 tons of food from Port-au-Prince to communities on La Gonave. This 10,000 pounds of food fed nearly 330 households in 3 different communities for a period of slightly over 2 weeks.
ADAG was quick and effective in its assessment of the post-earthquake damage. Before Bissonnette’s visit, ADAG had fully evaluated the disaster’s greatest losses. The community group totaled the amount of homes that were damaged, or destroyed, and formulated a complete plan for food provisions and rebuilding efforts. Two weeks after the earthquake, ADAG reported that 350 households were in desperate need of food, 97 homes were in need of substantial repair, 23 homes had to be completely rebuilt.
With local labor, ADAG estimates that the damages can be fixed for less than $180,000USD (covering the rebuilding needs of 5 communities). The new and restored homes will be built with the same sustainable design as those rebuilt by Roots after the devastating 2008 Hurricane Season. These new and restored homes will be better built, like the structures Roots of Development has built in the past which were not damaged at all by the earthquake. Every one of the houses rebuilt in this design is still standing in Gran Sous, despite the widespread destruction around them.
To date, Roots of Development has raised approximately $51,000 in the earthquake relief funds. The first distribution of food, including transportation, was $10,500. The second food distribution fed over two hundred families in two different communities than the initial emergency food relief. The rest of the funds has been slotted for a third food distribution and home reconstruction. One hundred percent of the contributions made to the Roots of Development Earthquake Relief Fund will be spent on rebuilding efforts and food aid. In addition, Roots has established several specific sponsorship programs to help in its relief efforts. To sponsor the rebuilding of an entirely new home for a family: $3,500 each. To sponsor the repair of a severely damaged home for a family: $1,000 each. To sponsor the building of a community latrine: $1,750 each. Food for two weeks for 350 families (approximately 2,600 people), each time from different communities: $10,000. Roots of Development plans on having smaller sponsorship opportunities in the future, however, these are the things most needed right now as a result of the earthquake.
The global response to earthquake relief will have a monumental impact on the country of Haiti. World governments and organizations have promised to continue their efforts to rebuild Haiti; they have promised $10 billion in aid which is actually double what President Preval had requested. With a sustained focus on Haiti, the hemisphere’s poorest nation might now have an opportunity to structurally rebuild and potentially become stronger the less susceptible to future natural disasters.