Preliminary Emergency Appeal: Major Earthquake in Haiti

August 20, 2021

Appeal code: 6773


On Saturday, August 14, a major 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the southwest of Haiti. Then, on Monday and Tuesday, August 16 and 17, Tropical Storm Grace brought heavy rains to many of the same communities. The storm triggered mudslides and compounded the earthquake’s damage, further hampering relief efforts.

Some of the earthquake’s damage is in areas where CWS teamed up with communities to recover following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The commune of Pestel (pop. 90,000), in Grand´ Anse department, is within the areas where the impact of the earthquake was classified by Map Action as VERY STRONG.

Rapid Damage Assessment by Pestel Administration. A first attempt to conduct a Rapid Damage assessment exercise coordinated by the Administration Communale de Pestel released August 17 reports: “Houses destroyed (30%), Cracked houses (60%), 43 public buildings damaged, 98% of water cisterns damaged.” Water scarcity is a serious concern, and many sections of roads in this mostly mountainous region are blocked due to landslides and cracks. The assessment identified 44 camps and settlements in four of the five communal sections and the main village of Pestel. On August 18, the administrator of the local health center in downtown Pestel (Centre de Sante de Pestel) told CWS that 200 patients were being seen on average per day.

CWS Damage and Needs Assessment. CWS´ existing relationships of mutual trust with community leaders and members, built over the course of our response to Hurricane Matthew (2016-2019), helped us to begin damage and needs assessment activity the day after the earthquake. Our team began contacting local authorities, community leaders, school directors and former staff in the area by phone and WhatsApp from our office in Port-au-Prince. Assessment activity will accelerate in the coming days in all communal sections of Pestel and the village. Tropical Storm Grace interrupted the damage and needs assessment, but it resumed on August 18.

CWS is currently completing the assessment of infrastructure built during our Hurricane Matthew response (three public schools, 17 houses and water cisterns). As of August 18, we have heard from two public schools, a community water cistern and seven homes built by CWS after Hurricane Matthew in hard-to-reach communities. All resisted the earthquake. Staff visits will continue until all schools and homes are assessed.

As soon as the security and logistic conditions allow it, CWS Port-au-Prince staff and consultants (psychosocial experts and a team of engineers) will be deployed to Pestel to oversee damage assessment and prioritization.

We have heard from the community of Cassavon that the water system that CWS helped them build is intact, full of water, and a good resource for this drought-prone community.

Needs in Pestel. As of August 18, Pestel has not received relief aid, and our team there reports widespread signs of community and individual trauma, worsening water scarcity, at least 15 destroyed schools, the main health center collapsed and stressed health workers. All guest houses and hotels used by CWS are damaged.

Security. Regarding security, Pestel remains calm and, led by the local authorities and Civil Protection, the community has begun to organize and mobilize to assess damages and prioritize needs.

Other Crises. The earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace are the latest in a long series of crises that the Haitain people are facing. Haiti was already in a situation of deep instability following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7. Like countries worldwide, Haiti has also struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Gangs control traffic in some areas, prohibiting supplies from reaching earthquake-affected areas by road. A severe fuel shortage was also already in effect.

CWS Response

CWS is issuing this initial appeal with additional revisions planned in coming days as we gather more information from rapid damage and needs assessment. The CWS immediate relief plan is informed by initial community input and feedback during visits and communication with key informants. Community input is an ongoing process and will continue to be gathered and systematized to inform project activities and next phase´s program design.

The CWS response will focus on the commune of Pestel, a mountainous district with 90,000 people in Grand Anse department where CWS works since 2016 hurricane Matthew. Pestel is a commune that never fully recovered from the effects of Hurricane Matthew. It was severely impacted by the August 14 earthquake and will not receive timely access to humanitarian assistance. COVID-19 vaccines are not available in Pestel.

CWS will provide immediate relief and long-term recovery support. CWS will actively coordinate with member communions and faith-based partners, international, national and regional networks we are part of like ACT Alliance, CLIO, Interaction and Help Age International.

Immediate Relief. In the first 90 days, CWS will provide, in coordination with local community disaster response committees, immediate relief in the sectors of: Health, Psychosocial Support, Shelter/NFIs, WASH, Education and emergency repair of critical community infrastructure as follows:

  • The main health center serving the commune of Pestel will be supported to serve at least 10,000 patients (including injured people, pregnant women, children under five, older people).
  • Children and adult community members in four communal sections of Pestel, including those in key community roles (health workers, school teachers and principals, civil protection members, destroyed businesses-owners), members of local faith communities and community associations, will access context-appropriate community-based psychosocial support and begin the path to individual and community trauma and emotional recovery.
  • At least 500 families will be surveyed and the most vulnerable cases will receive a tailored support package consisting of all or some of the following: Shelter (tents), Hygiene kits and a family water reservoir.
  • Emergency repairs to critical community infrastructure

Due to the beginning of the school year in September and the fundamental role education plays in children’s emotional recovery and protection, CWS will place special emphasis in supporting school-age students and teachers as they will struggle to begin the school year and attend school.

The immediate response will contribute to increase the commune of Pestel’s disaster preparedness by strengthening the critical community health care center which is currently undergoing severe stress due to dramatic increase in demand of its services and by providing critically-needed trauma and emotional recovery to members of the community that will result in greater social cohesion and community resilience.

Long-term Recovery Support. CWS reconstruction and recovery support in Pestel will focus on:

  • Housing reconstruction (1, 2 and 3 bedroom houses for 110 families).
  • Continued provision of psychosocial support and trauma recovery to prioritized groups (school-age children, older people, women, teachers).
  • Rebuild community water infrastructure (cisterns) and systems.
  • Education (schools kits, supplies, psychosocial support).
  • Livelihoods.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction in schools.

Preliminary Budget for 18-24 Months

  • Emergency relief: $110,000 (Health, WASH, Psychosocial support, Education, Supplies, Shelter).
  • Housing: $850,000 (110 families).
  • Rebuild community water infrastructure (cisterns) and systems: $150,000
  • Psychosocial and trauma recovery support: $80,000
  • Rebuilding livelihoods: $75,000
  • Disaster Risk Reduction: $15,000
  • CWS management, logistics and operations: $130,000
  • Monitoring, and mid-term and final evaluation: $20,000
  • Audit: $ 15,000

Note: plans and budget for school reconstruction will be included in future revisions once security and logistical conditions are in place to conduct damage assessment missions.
Total: $1,445,000

How to Help

Donations can be made online or by mailing a check to Church World Service (P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515). Please designate it to Haiti Earthquake Response.

If you or your congregation are planning to donate time or resources to care for Haitian children who have been affected by the earthquake, please consider supporting programs that strengthen families and communities rather than supporting unlicensed orphanages. Learn more here.

CWS is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.