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Haiti – five years on from the 2010 earthquake

Age International

3 min read Partner content

Five years on from the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Age International is continuing to work in the country and has recently helped more than a thousand older people to move into new homes and supported the creation of 16 older peoples associations.

Once they have moved into a new home, older people receive financial support for one year, enabling them to obtain a health insurance card, cover school costs for any dependent grandchildren and pay rent. They also receive a grant and training to set up a small business to earn a living, such as selling food or household items, as well as training in disaster risk management, for instance, developing a family emergency plan for each household.

Saintanne, 66, lives with her nine-year-old grandson on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The earthquake destroyed her home and she had to stay in a camp for displaced people in extremely difficult conditions. Age International helped Saintanne to move into a new home.

Saintanne said: "I currently live in a clean house, which is furnished and I’m independent. I have my own key, a place for me, a kitchen and a bathroom. I can sleep safely while it rains.

“When I compare the conditions in the camp and my current situation in this new house, I say it is the best gift I have received in my entire life."

With funds generously donated by the British public, Age International set up the first geriatric ward in Haiti, has provided psychosocial support and run a cash transfer scheme. The Charity has also helped to form Older People’s Associations in the camps where people lived in in the months following the earthquake. These Associations provide older people with a way of meeting together and claiming their rights: they have even met with the Haitian government.

More than 230,000 people died, 250,000 homes were destroyed and nearly one and a half million people were displaced by the earthquake in 2010. At least 7 per cent of those displaced from their homes by the disaster were identified by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) as people aged 60 and over.

Discrimination is at the heart of many problems faced by older women and men in Haiti, and exclusion is one of the main causes of extreme poverty amongst older people. Older people can experience exclusion from the authorities, their communities and even their own families.

There is no state pension in Haiti, and older people often do not have access to credit and have no legal recourse against family members who take their possessions. This all contributes to them being among the poorest and most vulnerable of the population.

Chris Roles, Director of Age international said:

“We have a long-term commitment in Haiti beyond the emergency response. Our priorities include the expansion of the network of Older People’s Associations and a better understanding of how to prepare for any disasters in the future. We will work with older people so they can support themselves, keep in good health and ensure their essential needs are met."