Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and is ranked 149th of 182 countries on the Human Development Index. On Tuesday 12 January 2010, the country was hit by a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake with an epicentre near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. An estimated three million people were affected by the quake; the Haitian government reported that an estimated 316,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless. The government of Haiti also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
On Friday 15th January 2010, the Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Ms Hyslop, held a meeting with the main Scottish aid agencies to discuss the earthquake in Haiti. Following this, the Scottish Government awarded £687,357 from the International Development Fund which went to a total of 11 charities to carry out relief work on the ground. The 11 charities were: Concern Worldwide, Mission Aviation Fellowship, SCIAF, Save the Children, Mary's Meals, Christian Aid, British Red Cross, Oxfam, Mercy Corps, CBM and Glasgow the Caring City.
For further information please see the news release published on 9 February 2010.
Oxfam - Haiti Emergency Response (£74,684)
Oxfam worked in 47 sites in Port au Prince and surrounding area making clean water and sanitation available as well as promoting good hygiene practices. Scottish Government supported this project by funding the deployment of water engineers and public health specialists to manage and implement Oxfam's emergency WASH ( Water, Sanitation and Health ) programme. Oxfam had to overcome a number of challenges including:
- The scale of the disaster meant need was overwhelming, making the original assessment of the situation very difficult.
- Oxfam's own staff were affected by the earthquake. Some staff lost their lives and many lost their homes. The Oxfam Haiti office was also severely damaged.
- Logistical challenges were great as there was airport congestion in the first week after the earthquake. None the less, Oxfam was able to access their contingency stocks which was critical in aid delivery
Despite these hurdles, Oxfam's existing presence in country, strong partnerships and experienced staff meant they were still able to deliver the proposed WASH objectives to 164,900 beneficiaries. The Scottish Government's funding, which enabled them to deploy additional public health engineers and hygiene experts within the critical time frame was instrumental in the successful delivery of this project.
As part of Hygiene promotion, Oxfam ran a children's project with local artists to promote public health and waste management messages to children in the camps. Old food trays and plastic bottles are converted into toy houses and painted in bright colours. The final touch is added with a public health message like 'wash your hands after visiting the toilet'. But the activity is more than learning about good public health practices, or encouraging them to think about recycling and waste management.
"The stress from the earthquake is long lasting. The trauma is in their, and our, heads and hearts. This activity offers a distraction. This kind of programme keeps us all going" says Sanchez Evans a local artist involved in the project.
Melissa Mervilus, aged 11 and a beneficiary of the project told us:
"I painted an earthquake-proof house because my house was destroyed. We have learnt about washing hands, painting, drawing and making houses. When we go home we encourage others to wash their hands. It's a lot of fun here. There are others wanting to come and join us. "