Haiti one year on

Catherine Ashton talking with a young Haitian girl  © EUCatherine Ashton talking with a young Haitian girl © EU

As images of the devastation and suffering were beamed around the globe in January 2010, the world watched in horror. One year on, in 2011, day-to-day life remains challenging for many Haitians, but support provided by the EU and others has made a huge difference.

Nearly 223 000 people lost their lives in Haiti on 12 January 2010. Hospitals – 60% of which were destroyed – admitted over 95 000 people. Some 1.7 million people were left homeless, while key infrastructure was torn apart. The immediate needs were clear for all to see, and the international community immediately stepped up to the challenge.

Within hours, European Union (EU) experts were on the ground in Haiti, assessing needs and talking to Haitian authorities. EU countries pledged almost €201 million for emergency relief, topped up with €120 million from EU emergency humanitarian funding. Attention focussed on three principal areas: emergency shelter, infrastructure and supporting the State.

The extent of the damage caused by the earthquake and added complications such as the cholera epidemic and Hurricane Tomas during 2010, requires donors’ commitment to helping Haiti in the long-term. At an international Donors’ Conference in New York on 31 March 2010, donors pledged almost USD 10 billion. The EU is a leading donor and EU countries collaborate closely in their efforts to help improve the situation in Haiti.

On the anniversary of the earthquake, International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva summed up the situation:

‘Yes, a year after the earthquake, Haiti is still struggling. There is still rubble on the streets of Port-au-Prince, nearly 1 million people live in camps, and more than 170 000 are in the grip of cholera. And yet, in a country with weak government, nearly 4 million people were helped in one way or another to cope with the direct and indirect impact of the disaster, day after day, for a whole year.’

She is also optimistic about Haiti’s future, and aware of the role that the EU must play.

‘So, it is up to us to finish this page in Haiti’s history…for the country to recover and blossom, we must stand by Haiti for the years ahead…’