Updated Emergency Appeal: Haiti Earthquake

November 5, 2021

Appeal Code: 6773

This serves as an update to the Preliminary Emergency Appeal, issued on August 20.


A major 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, August 14. This disaster killed at least 2,248 people and injured more than 12,700. It destroyed buildings and infrastructure, impacting hundreds of thousands of people. Days later, Tropical Storm Grace compounded the situation, bringing heavy rains that triggered mudslides. 

The commune of Pestel, which is in Haiti’s Grand’ Anse department and is home to about 90,000 people, was one of the hardest-hit areas. CWS had existing relationships with communities and organizations in Pestel; much of our response to Hurricane Matthew in 2016 unfolded there. Most families in Pestel rely on subsistence farming and fishing in order to make a living, and many depend on remittances from family members who move to larger cities. Due to a lack of educational and economic opportunities in the rural area, many families send their children to Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes or other cities to pursue an education. In many cases, these children end up as child domestic servants or victims of trafficking or sexual abuse. 

The CWS programs that took place in Pestel following Hurricane Matthew primarily focused on construction. CWS engineers and team members supported families to rebuild houses that the hurricane damaged or destroyed. Families and construction teams built the new houses with much stronger materials to better withstand future disasters. Our team also worked with three communities to rebuild damaged schools, again with stronger materials. Following the earthquake in August, we assessed and visited the 19 houses and three schools that we helped rebuild in Pestel. We are proud to report a 100% success rate in those structures withstanding the earthquake. 

In September, CWS conducted a rapid needs assessment in Pestel. We interviewed more than 300 people in 35 locations in Pestel. Of those interviewed:

  • 77% ranked shelter reconstruction as their top priority;
  • 74% did not have access to sufficient food;
  • 87% said that they did not have access to clean and safe drinking water;
  • 89% felt unsafe and insecure where they were living; and
  • 65% reported feeling anxious all or most of the time.

Meanwhile, Haiti is facing a grim, complex humanitarian context. The national security and governance crisis has resulted in significant logistical challenges for responding organizations, including CWS. For security reasons, Pestel’s leadership doesn’t support cash and food distributions. The health center in Pestel continues to lack even basic supplies. Weeks of rain in October did help alleviate some of the severe water shortage, but the rain also aggravated the poor living conditions of many families by destroying or damaging more homes. 

Despite the challenges, CWS remains uniquely well positioned to support the people of Pestel as they rebuild. We are proud to have a network of strong relationships with local authorities, community organizations and residents themselves. We were able to rapidly mobilize a staff team of engineers, psychosocial support experts and others, most of whom were part of the CWS Hurricane Matthew response team. They are local to the area and are prepared to once again bring their expertise and experience to help their community rebuild. 

CWS Response

In the weeks since the earthquake, CWS has:

  • Established a locally-led office and response team in Pestel.
  • Conducted the rapid needs assessment mentioned above.
  • Assessed damaged water systems and infrastructure.
  • Established formal relationships with local water, education and health departments, including a collaboration agreement with the health center of Pestel to get mobile health clinics to remote areas.
  • Begun facilitating training sessions for community leaders on trauma recovery and counseling. The first five-day training included 30 teachers, and similar sessions are in the works for health workers and other community groups.
  • Offered a week-long trauma recovery program for 160 students at the Public School of Cassavon, which is one of the schools that CWS helped rebuild following Hurricane Matthew. 

In the coming weeks and months, the CWS response will focus on the following activities:

  • Building 110 houses in the town of Pestel and the surrounding rural areas, using our expertise and experience from similar activities after Hurricane Matthew.
  • Partnering with up to 10 public schools in Pestel in the recently-launched school year. This includes repairing or rebuilding damaged schools; distributing school supplies and furniture in partnership with the communities; offering psychosocial support for students and teachers; supporting water, sanitation and hygiene; and making sure that teachers can participate in livelihood recovery and housing reconstruction programs.
  • Supporting and strengthening the infrastructure, service delivery and outreach capacity of the health center of Pestel;
  • Assessing and monitoring at-risk groups’ access to needed medications (many of those surveyed in the rapid needs assessment reported high rates of health conditions and limited supplies of medications). 
  • Expanding mobile clinics so that more people in rural areas can access healthcare.
  • Delivering drinking water containers and tarps to at least 50 families. 
  • Repairing two community water supply system and build at least 30 families’ cisterns.
  • Training community volunteers to support the mental health of their neighbors.
  • Partnering with community-based organizations, women’s groups and/or credit unions to design and implement programs that will help people recover their livelihoods and earn a living.
  • Liaising with local religious and spiritual leaders to address community needs for spiritual support, including for families with non-local members who are unable to return to Pestel to be part of burial rituals. 

Including groups who are too often marginalized or forgotten is a key priority for this response. We are ensuring that adults over 70 are able to participate actively and their voices be heard in response planning. We are working alongside women and women’s groups to strengthen community links to those who are at risk of neglect, isolation and emotional abuse. Our team is coordinating with other humanitarian responders in Pestel to information sharing about preventing and responding to domestic violence and all forms of abuse against children, older adults or people with disabilities. We are also working to draw attention to longer-term needs, including reintegrating migrants who have returned to Pestel. 


TOTAL: $1.65 million

The response activities section of the budget can be broken down as follows:

  • Shelter: 62%
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene: 20%
  • Health and psychosocial: 9%
  • Disaster Risk Reduction: 3%
  • Livelihoods: 3%
  • Education: 3%

Please note that the budget total also include staff, logistical, monitoring and administrative costs.

How to Help

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