News

Five Years after Haiti's Devastating Earthquake People are Slowly Rebuilding their Lives

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
13 Jan 2015

Field hospitals had to be set up to deal with the injured after main hospitals in Haiti were destroyed

Five years ago Haiti was struck by a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake. As many as 300,000 were killed, a third of the country's population of 9.7 million made homeless while the capital city of Port-au-Prince almost completely destroyed.

Today thanks to the efforts of Caritas, the USA's Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and other humanitarian agencies, lives are being rebuilt. Even five years on, recovery is a slow process. Not only was the Island nation devastated by the January 2010 quake but Haiti remains one of the poorest nations on earth with as many as 80 percent of its people living in poverty.

Well-known for remaining on the ground long after the initial emergency or natural disaster is over, the international Caritas network which includes CRS and Caritas Australia continue to work closely with the people of Haiti, rebuilding schools, hospitals, addressing water and hygiene needs, facilitating the recycling of rubble into high quality marketable commodities to rebuild stronger and more resilient communities.

Pre Op in Haiti after St Francois de Sales Hospital was destroyed

In addition the Catholic agencies are helping provide book-keeping inventory, financial management and marketing training as well as cash grants for people to setup their own small scale businesses.

As Haiti marks the fifth anniversary of the nation's worst earthquake in more than 200 years this week, there is also cause for celebration.  In partnership with CRS, Caritas and the Catholic Church, and the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, one of Haiti's oldest Catholic hospitals has been rebuilt and transformed into a state of the art teaching hospital.

On Thursday 15 January Port-au-Prince's newly-built St Francois de Sales Hospital will open.

in partnership with CRS, Caritas and the Catholic Church, and the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, one of Haiti's oldest Catholic hospitals has been rebuilt and transformed into a state of the art teaching hospital.

Artist impression of the restored reconstructed Port-au-Prince Cathedral

The 200-bed facility will provide services in paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine, orthopaedics, and outpatient and emergency care. In addition the hospital will be equipped with an ambulance system. A rarity in Haiti's constantly challenged healthcare environment, the ambulance service will enable rapid life-saving transport to patients in and around the crowded streets of Port-au-Prince.

A new electronic medical management information system has also been installed to enable staff to track individual patients and monitor their care.

For more than 100 years, Port-au-Prince's St Francois de Sales Hospital had provided healthcare to the city's poorest and most vulnerable families and individuals. But the earthquake not only destroyed 80 percent of the building but killed 70 of the hospital's dedicated staff.

Devastated ward of Catholic hospital in Port-au-Prince and below the newly built state of the art ward

"The new hospital is more than a first rate medical facility," says Carolyn

Woo, president and CEO of CRS, Governor of the University of Notre Dame Australia who was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws in Sydney last month. "The hospital is also an important part of the future of medicine in Haiti through its training mission even as it provides the quality healthcare to the poor of this country that they need and deserve."

In addition to the new hospital, many of Haiti's soccer and playing fields which were coverted into tent cities in the aftermath of the quake are at last being returned to their original purpose.

Building on transitional and permanent housing to replace slum dwellings and other structures destroyed in the earthquake continues to gather pace.

Work on the rebuilding of the historic and much loved Notre Dame de L'Assomption Cathedral has also begun.

The force of the quake collapsed the original Cathedral's roof and towers, and destroyed the Archdiocesan offices killing Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot instantly and Vicar General, Charles Benoit, who died of his injuries a short time later.

Haiti one of the world's poorest nations was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake five years ago

Two years after the devastating quake, the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince launched an international design competition inviting the world's architects to submit ideas and plans for the reconstruction of the Cathedral. The winner of the competition, Segundo Cardona of Puerto Rica submitted plans that are not only a combination of old and modern, but include a space for a memorial to the thousands of victims of the earthquake.

In keeping with the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince's wishes, the design also includes stabilising and retaining part of the old structure as well as selecting materials on what is mainly available locally and craftsmanship to promote new work opportunities in favour of the local economy.

To donate to Caritas Australia and its work on the ground in poverty-stricken countries such as Haiti, log on to www.caritas.org.au