As the final stage of our recovery programme drew to a close in Port-au-Prince at the end of last month, the British Red Cross left Haiti, more than five years after the country was struck by a massive earthquake in January 2010.
Haiti is by far one of the most challenging emergencies that the British Red Cross has encountered. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake left 220,000 people dead, 1.5 million people homeless, and a country on its knees.
Entire communities were reduced to rubble; in particular a small community in the capital called Delmas 19. This was where the British Red Cross decided to focus our work, but the urban environment threw up a range of challenges that we hadn’t come across previously, as our recovery work after natural disasters has predominantly focused on rural areas.
Delmas 19 was a maze of narrow alleyways barely wide enough to get a wheelbarrow through; our work was often delayed while we tried to establish who owned what land and who would benefit from its development; and at times violence and insecurity made it a risky place for our team.
Despite all of this, our team has achieved some amazing work in their time there. Our top priority was to rebuild the canal and stop the constant flooding; a huge feat of engineering.
A team of highly skilled engineers worked alongside a local labour force to build it, and the results have been fantastic. Not only has the canal put an end to the flooding, but it has also created new paved community spaces that have made Delmas 19 a safer and more vibrant community.
The new market built by the British Red Cross has become a community hub for traders to sell their goods, and the solar-powered street lights we installed have made the walkways safer. We also built 152 new houses and repaired 139 other properties.
The local community informed all of our work, and we helped them to become self-sufficient and build new skills, so that they will continue to thrive now that we’ve gone. We trained masons, organised literacy classes, and gave financial support to local businesses.
“Our departure from Haiti marks the end of an incredible journey,” said Ted Tuthill, British Red Cross Head of Region. “We arrived in the immediate hours after the earthquake. We’ve stayed on to ensure we could make a long-term, sustainable difference to the lives of people in one of the poorest countries in the world. None of this would have been possible without the generous donations of the British public.”
New community space created by canal. ©BRC
Thank you for your support. For more information about or work in Haiti, watch out video here.