Haiti Earthquake: 3 Years Later

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We became Humanity & Inclusion on 1/24/2018

Handicap International launched its largest ever emergency operation in Haiti in response to the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010.


Three years later, the organization is still hard at work in Haiti, helping to build the capacities of the local population to respond to their country's needs.

2010-2011: Emergency Response

During the two years immediately following the earthquake, Handicap International helped thousands of victims, especially people who suffered disabling injuries as a result of the earthquake. The organization estimates that about:

— 90,000 basic care and rehabilitative sessions occurred (in homes or tents, on the street right after the emergency, or at a DVFP; usually provided by our mobile teams),
— 25,000 people received psychosocial support,
— 1,500 people were fitted with orthopedic devices,
— 5,600 mobility aids (crutches, wheelchairs, etc.) were distributed,
— 4,500 rehabilitation sessions were offered in the rehabilitation center with our physical therapists,
— 22,000 tons of aid were transported, and
— 1,050 transitional shelters were built, providing homes for more than 5,000 people.

At the peak of its emergency response, Handicap International employed about 600 staff members, including 80 expatriates.

Handing Responsibility to Haitian Professionals

Handicap International's aim is not to act as a long-term substitute for a country's national health services, but to create the conditions for the management of its activities by local teams. In 2012, the organization transferred some of its physical rehabilitation operations to a local partner, Healing Hands for Haiti, which built a new orthopedic-fitting center in the capital.

When the earthquake struck in 2010, the country counted a mere 13 physical therapists, half of whom were living abroad. As a result, the organization began offering first-ever training sessions in Haiti for rehabilitation professionals to enable assistant physical therapists and orthoprosthesists to case-manage patients who need to be fitted with orthopedic devices. Within two years, Haiti could have a national staff of 70 rehabilitation technicians and 32 prosthesists.

Dignity Through Work

Known as “kokobé” (“good for nothing” in Creole), Haitians with disabilities have long been stigmatized. Socio-economic inclusion is an essential step towards helping them play a role in society. Around 400 families have benefited from Handicap International's social inclusion project, which helps vulnerable people and their families to set up small businesses. Designed to be as practical as possible, this project provides beneficiaries with training and an initial stock of products which they can use to kick-start their businesses.

Natural Disaster Preparedness

Handicap International's emergency response teams are still active in Haiti through a project called the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), which was set up in partnership with the Haiti Civil Protection Unit to manage the response to the natural disasters which regularly plague the country.

When a new emergency arises, the RRM is capable of mobilizing pre-identified teams to perform immediate assessments and provide a multi-sector response including the distribution of essential items (sheets, hygiene and cooking kits, etc.) and water and the establishment of sanitation, health, education and child protection services. The mechanism was activated following Hurricane Isaac and again in October, when Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti.