OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
At 8:30 am (GMT-4) on 14 August, a strong, shallow earthquake rocked southwestern Haiti just 12 km northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, about 125 kilometres west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The 7.2-magnitude quake, which was 10 km deep, toppled buildings and homes and damaged infrastructure and roads, cutting off access to some roads in the southwest, including the National Road 7 (RN-7) which connects Les Cayes and Jérémie, and forcing many to flee their homes in fear that they may collapse.
While preliminary assessments are still in their very early stages, as of 17 August, the Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate (DGPC) reports more than 60,700 homes have been destroyed and 76,100 have sustained damages, leaving thousands homeless, generating pressing need to provide adequate shelter conditions and access to water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as health services. DGPC also reports more than 1,900 dead (the vast majority in the Department of Sud) and nearly 10,000 injured, figures likely to continue increasing in the coming hours and days as more people remain missing. While initial aerial reconnaissance missions have shown less catastrophic damage compared to the 2010 earthquake, the devastation wrought by the latest earthquake is yet another blow to communities affected by multiple overlapping crises, generating new humanitarian needs that national systems and international partners will be hard-pressed to meet. Only two days after the earthquake struck, Tropical Depression Grace made landfall in Haiti hampering humanitarian response efforts.
The earthquake could not have come at a worse time for Haiti, which is still reeling from the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on 7 July and escalating gang violence which has resulted in the internal displacement of around 19,000 people in the country’s southern peninsula, greatly worsening an already precarious humanitarian situation, with some 4.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance prior to the earthquake.
While a recent surge in COVID-19 cases has tapered off, the possible displacement of thousands of people has created ripe conditions for a spike in COVID-19 infections, potentially overwhelming an already weak and overstretched health system.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry has declared a one-month national state of emergency, requesting specific assistance in search-and-rescue operations, with all additional requests for support contingent upon the findings of ongoing damage and needs assessments.