Where We Work

More about Haiti

On Tuesday, 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti at 4:53 p.m. local time. The epicenter was near the town of Léogâne, approximately 16 miles (25 km) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. By 24 January, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded. An estimated 3 million people were affected by the quake. Although exact numbers are in dispute, from 100,000 to 300,000 people lost their lives and 1 million to 3 million were made homeless.

As of June 2011, a year and a half after the earthquake – and a few months after a cholera outbreak that claimed almost 5,000 more lives – the majority of the rubble has been removed and the number of Haitians still living in temporary camps has been greatly reduced. Regrettably, some of the long-term challenges that have affected Haiti since before the earthquake remain.

For example, the lack of reliable, good quality drinking water continues to be a major problem in many areas due to bacterial contamination. In addition, as a result of extreme poverty, many Haitians do not take in enough protein and suffer from malnutrition. Another important issue is deforestation. More than 90% of Haiti's natural forest cover has been removed, primarily to produce charcoal for cooking. This has caused landslides, erosion, and poor water quality, among other things. Finally, solid waste disposal and management is a significant problem due to the absence of garbage collection or sanitary landfills in many areas.

Based on our visit to Grand Goâve, there seem to be workable solutions to many of these challenges. A number of organizations are drilling water wells in the area; however, better water testing, treatment, and education are needed. In the realm of forestry, because so much of Haiti is mountainous, most agricultural production is on steep slopes. Many farmers are now aware that the lack of forest cover, as well as failing to use other methods of erosion control, is causing them to lose substantial amounts of topsoil. Local, Haitian-led organizations are beginning to take the lead in this area of agriculture and are having amazing results.

Beginning in the 1950s, fish from small-scale fish farms was an important source of animal protein for Haitians. This is no longer the case today, since government-run fish hatcheries ceased operation some years ago. Fortunately, several private fish hatcheries now have opened and are making fish fingerlings available to farmers once again. Fish farming has the potential to be a very viable enterprise in Haiti, both providing fish for sale and improving overall nutrition.

As a final word, we were very pleased at the opportunity to visit Haiti, to provide environmental expertise, and to brainstorm solutions to meet the needs of Haitians in the Grand Goâve district. This type of work was exactly the reason why Global Environmental Relief was created, to work together with local communities to proactively find solutions that address the physical needs, lives, and livelihoods of the poor, marginalized, and powerless. We look forward to more opportunities like this one, in both Haiti and elsewhere. For additional photos of our visit, please see our Facebook album.