On August 14, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, leaving more than 650,000 people in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.
Aid is needed particularly in rural, hard-to-reach areas that were more heavily affected by the earthquake.
Constraints related to security, transportation and communication have restricted humanitarian access in areas where relief is needed most.
As of September 19, International Medical Corps had provided more than 1,419 medical consultations and distributed more than 7,000 liters of potable water to residents and healthcare providers.
On August 14, 2021, a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Haiti, causing at least 2,248 deaths and injuring some 12,763 people. As efforts transition from emergency to recovery, ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need remains a challenge, due to the deteriorating security situation, restricted humanitarian access and limited communication, especially in rural areas. The Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate (known by its French abbreviation DGPC) has reported that rural areas have been much more heavily impacted compared to the larger, urban centers. These areas are particularly vulnerable, as they already had limited access to essential services—including healthcare—before the earthquake. In addition, many residents in these rural areas rely on agriculture as their main source of income; and their livelihood has been affected by the combined impacts of the quake and Tropical Depression Grace.
The earthquake further exacerbated the country’s pre-existing vulnerabilities. Before the earthquake, the country was battling rising food insecurity, deteriorating infrastructure, disrupted local markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased gang violence. These issues have only become more dire in the wake of the quake.
This month, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women’s Rights, in partnership with CARE and UN Women, conducted a rapid gender analysis that included feedback from 4,000 respondents in Grand’Anse, Nippes and Sud. Participants were asked a series of questions to assess the overall impact of the earthquake on access to services, livelihoods, shelter, gender-based violence, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Of those surveyed, 54% of women and 46% of men reported having already faced difficulties in accessing health services in the wake of the earthquake. Risks associated with lack of healthcare services were much higher for pregnant women and people with disabilities in these rural departments. Additionally, some 32% of respondents indicated they were experiencing psychological trauma and are in need of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed reported a reduction in paid work and income opportunities, disrupting local markets. Some 60% noted that the earthquake led to increased food insecurity and weakening of livelihoods. Some 53% of women and 56% of men are residing in damaged homes, with no way to support repairs. Nearly 20% of respondents have no shelter at all.
In late August, at the request of the Haitian government, International Medical Corps began the process of deploying its Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Type 1 Fixed medical facility to Haiti to address the urgent health needs of affected populations in Aquin, located in the Sud department of the Tiburon Peninsula. An EMT Type 1 is a self-sufficient outpatient health facility that is fully equipped to serve a minimum of 100 patients per day. In Haiti, the EMT was deployed in partnership with the Haitian Resource Development Foundation (HRDF), a non-profit organization with the mission of supporting projects and programs that provide measurable results for program beneficiaries and ensure greater economic vitality in Haitian villages.
The facility began offering services on September 2. As of September 19, the team had provided 1,419 medical consultations to residents, of which 80 were directly related to the earthquake and 225 were indirectly related. The remaining patients arrived at the clinic in search of treatment for chronic illnesses. Health events directly related to the earthquake include mild and moderate trauma, and mental health conditions. Health events indirectly related to the earthquake have included skin infections and respiratory infections, as a result of patients sleeping outside due to their homes being destroyed.
Demand for healthcare services remains high in Aquin and surrounding areas. Referrals remain a challenge across the Tiburon Peninsula, particularly for orthopedic patients, as facilities are overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients requiring care. Despite challenges related to logistics, staffing and security, our team is continuing to provide care to more than 100 patients per day in the clinic. To ensure the safety and security of staff and patients, the clinic operates Monday through Saturday during daylight hours only. Additionally, due to the surge of COVID-19 in the United States—driven largely by the Delta variant—and because of transportation and logistical challenges in Haiti, staffing has been a challenge, leading to fluctuations in the number of clinicians onsite each day.
In addition to providing medical services, International Medical Corps’ team also has distributed more than 7,000 liters of potable water to healthcare facilities and other local non-governmental organizations in the area providing critical support to residents in Aquin. The team has also reached more than 100 patients with health and hygiene promotion activities.
Given the increased need for MHPSS services and gender-based violence (GBV) support, International Medical Corps’ team is integrating these services into adjacent community-support spaces near the clinic. Our GBV team is recruiting candidates for outreach and response roles focused on supporting vulnerable or affected women and girls, and on providing appropriate services and pathways for these individuals. The GBV team also is conducting key informant interviews with community leaders and local organizations to inform the launch of a Women’s and Girls’ Safe Space (WGSS), which will be used to host information sessions and group activities. Through the WGSS, women will be able to access psychosocial support and safely link to health services. In addition to integrating MHPSS into our medical services, International Medical Corps also is prioritizing MHPSS for all volunteers deployed to support the clinic. International Medical Corps’ Principles of Psychological First Aid course was released internally last week to all volunteers, and the training is now required for medical volunteers deploying to Haiti.