On the 14th of August 2021, the earth quaked in Haiti – buildings were destroyed and thousands of people lost their lives, their homes or were injured. About a month after the 7.2-magnitude earthquake, the situation in the south of the island is still unclear and chaotic. Many children are in need of food, water and safe shelter.
This is also the case for 14-year-old Nephtalie – she lives with her parents and her three siblings in southwestern Haiti. While her mother Lovelie was doing the laundry at a nearby river, Nephtalie was watching her little sister Gaelle sleep when the two were suddenly surprised by the earthquake.
I saw the earth was shaking. I saw that everything was falling, and I didn't see the baby. I ran, and I saw that she was buried.
Nephtalie screamed loudly for help, but managed to rescue her little sister from the rubble on her own. Fortunately, she only had a small cut on her head. When Lovelie returned, she found her children outside the collapsed house. “I was so happy to see them. But unfortunately, all our belongings were destroyed. I lost everything I had,” the mother explains. The family has temporarily built a shelter out of collected items such as tin. But the rain is causing problems for the family. The urgently needed aid is only making slow progress.
Nephtalie and her little sister Gaelle show the remains of their home.
Nephtalie rescued her little sister from the collapsed house.
The family currently lives in this selfmade shelter.
Lack of buildings for the start of school
Infrastructures such as hospitals, roads or schools are still full of debris, which means that basic services are not ensured. And all that, just before the start of school in three weeks. Save the Children stresses how important it is that children like Nephtalie are able to go back to school as soon as possible.
Working closely with the government and other organizations, Save the Children wants to ensure that the children have a chance to learn again and return to the safety of their daily lives. However, due to the slow pace of aid, it is feared that school shelters will not be repaired and rebuilt in time.
Even before the earthquake, an estimated 500,000 children were at risk of dropping out of school – often because of the Covid-19 and insecurity. Violence has only worsened since the disaster, and children – many of whom have been living outdoors since their homes were destroyed – fear for their safety.
Many have lost everything – their homes, even family members and friends. Children tell us they struggle to sleep. They desperately need to return to the predictability and support that a school environment provides.
The school as an essential place for children
“School is more than a building. Teachers are critical adult figures in children’s lives, identifying protection risks and changes in their mental health needs”, says Perpétue Vendredi. “Children will need catch-up classes and support – and schools are an ideal place for them to access the care they deserve.”
As an immediate response, we distributed relief supplies such as tarps, blankets, jerry cans and baby kits.
Save the Children has proposed to build temporary facilities until the schools are restored. The new buildings should also be made accessible to children with disabilities – as there was a severe lack of such facilities in the past. Many of the damaged buildings were not designed for children with disabilities.
We plan to support the communities with training for teachers, school supplies, financial aid and furniture.
Child friendly spaces
In the meantime, Save the Children is ready to set up child-friendly spaces in the affected communities. Children can play in these and recover from their experiences under the supervision of trained staff, while their families can begin rebuilding their lives.