Five Years Later: The Earthquake as a Catalyst of Change
On January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake brought destruction to Haiti. The challenges to rebuilding the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere have been great. But the reconstruction has been a catalyst for change.
Reconstruction has brought better schools and more prepared teachers to Haiti, opened a window to address the shortage of qualified health care professionals, given Haitians the opportunity to own homes and introduced diverse agricultural opportunities.
After the earthquake, Catholic Relief Services saw the need for more coordinated efforts to address the needs of the poor. As a participant in "One Church Response," CRS has acted boldly in education, health, agriculture and housing, inviting the Haitian people to participate in opportunities that address the root causes of poverty. Our development programs are models for creating lasting, significant change globally. Five years after the earthquake, CRS continues to support Haiti, its people and its future.
The face of Catholic education in Haiti is changing. Catholic schools account for about 15% of the education system—making them the country's largest educational service provider, serving some of Haiti's neediest students. But you can't serve effectively if you don't know the people you are serving. In the first study of its kind, CRS visited all 2,315 Catholic schools in Haiti to assess school infrastructure, quality of service and management. We're now using that crucial data to spark change.
More qualified teachers
You can't have successful students without qualified teachers—and yet 79% of primary school teachers in Haiti have no formal academic training (PREAL, 2008). CRS and the University of Notre Dame have partnered with the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education in Haiti, or CEEC, a licensed provider of primary school teacher certification, to change that. The partnership is providing 470 hours of training over 2½ years to more than 1,350 teachers. Teachers who successfully complete the program receive certifications from the Haitian Ministry of Education.
Enhanced education support structure
Greater accountability and effectiveness
Change is useless if it's not monitored and evaluated. The CEEC will train academic supervisors in diocesan education offices to visit schools, provide coaching, and give feedback to teachers and principals about performance and progress. The goal is to make sure the quality of education has improved and that students are benefiting.
New focus on collaboration
CRS is working to strengthen the collaboration between Catholic parishes and dioceses in the United States, and schools and diocesan education offices in Haiti. These efforts include providing workshops and resources on good partnership practices. CRS is also collaborating with other institutions committed to advancing Catholic education in Haiti.
Changing the future of health care
The 2010 earthquake was the catalyst for redesigning and rebuilding one of the largest and oldest hospitals in Haiti. Located in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince, St. François de Sales Hospital was built in 1881 to serve the city's poorest residents. The earthquake destroyed about 80% of the hospital's buildings and killed 70 staff members and patients.
In the hours and days that followed, hospital and CRS staff salvaged an emergency facility from the rubble and continued to treat patients with critical injuries, saving lives and limbs. Through a partnership with the University of Maryland, which sent hundreds of doctors, nurses and other medical staff to Haiti after the earthquake, the hospital was able to treat more than 71,000 patients.
More than a hospital
Situated on its original site, the rebuilt $22.5 million hospital will continue to care for Haiti's poorest residents. Today, the 200-bed, 125,000-square-foot facility is a state-of-the-art university teaching hospital that will train the doctors and nurses of Haiti's future.
Partnerships improve health care quality
CRS is working with the Catholic Health Association and the University of Notre Dame to develop a self-sustaining network of faith-based hospitals. Built using World Health Organization guidelines for strengthening health systems, the effort will improve quality health care for poor people across Haiti by building a strong support system for their health care providers.
Groundbreaking housing funding opportunities
Real recovery in Haiti requires long-term development and investment in existing and new business, production and infrastructure. But limited access to credit prevents families and businesses from growing, hindering the country's progress. Part of the problem is that most small businesses function in an informal, cash-based system, outside of the purview of formal lenders. That means that households and businesses have to save money, rather than borrow, to improve their homes or invest in their businesses. This pay-as-you-go mentality limits growth.
New financial model: saving for true ownership
CRS is working with the private sector and public institutions, such as the Affordable Housing Institute, to break this cycle and stimulate lending. We are designing a financial structure that will allow families, communities and businesses with regular income to qualify for credit with formal lenders and access the money they desperately need. We're piloting this model with the community of Carradeux, in a relationship that began in 2010 when we resettled many of its first residents who were living on the grounds of a nearby private school. Members of Carradeux will be able to use this new financial model to purchase new homes.
More affordable and scalable development
This private-sector model—which is affordable for borrowers and profitable for lenders—can be applied as easily to future commercial or mixed-use development. Haitians who thought homeownership was out of reach are now part of a larger community committed to long-term and safe development.
Building in farmer resilience
CRS believes that Haiti's recovery will largely depend on increased agricultural productivity, since almost 90% of rural Haitians are poor and can't buy or grow enough food. A constant threat of severe storms and hurricanes, whose impact is exacerbated as hillsides are left unprotected by deforestation, makes people even more vulnerable to food shortages.
From seedlings to sales
CRS works with farmers—from seedlings to sales. We help people get their harvests to market effectively and ensure that more yields lead to more money. CRS Haiti's 3-year Mountains to Markets initiative bolstered the livelihoods of 5,750 households by maximizing the production and sales of coffee and mangoes. The project helped create a network of six coffee cooperatives, planted 265,000 new coffee trees and facilitated the sale of 43,000 pounds of coffee.
Addressing the environment and climate change
Our work with some 12,000 farmers in three important markets—mango, coffee and cacao—is strengthening cooperatives, increasing production, improving post-harvest processing and creating market linkages so farm families have more income. CRS prioritizes crops that are environmentally sustainable and reinforce our work in disaster prevention and preparedness. Meanwhile, some 16,000 farmers in our programs are planting trees, applying the environmentally sound agricultural practices they've learned and building protective structures on hillsides and in ravines. All of these best practices protect their homes, water sources and the land they depend on for their livelihoods.
Adapting and growing
Coffee farmers in Haiti, especially those in low-altitude, at-risk regions, will likely need to start replacing crops like coffee with more suitable ones like mangoes, one of Haiti's most important exports. Farmers who live in areas that will only be moderately affected can plant shade trees, which lower the temperature over coffee plants and stabilize hillsides, which often suffer from soil erosion. They can also switch to drought-tolerant coffee trees and install irrigation systems.
CRS and our partners are working with Haitian farmers to develop adaptations like organic and shade farming, pest and plant disease control and crop diversification. Haiti's agricultural sector employs more than half of its population. Continued education and guidance about climate change, and applying effective solutions, will allow it to thrive.