Background: Earthquake in Haiti

Background: Earthquake in Haiti

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Around 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12, 2010, a powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles southwest of Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince, and triggered a tsunami warning for the region. A series of aftershocks – more than 30 – measuring 5.0 or greater on the Richter Scale, followed throughout the night and into the morning. The nearby towns of Carrefour and Jacmel and other ares to the west and south of Port-au-Prince also were affected, with the town of Léogâne reported to be 80 percent destroyed.

Buildings across the area area collapsed, leaving hundred of thosands homeless, injured and dead. The exact number of people killed will probably never be known, but the Haitian government places the figure at 222,517, and some 300,600 wounded. Three million people were directly affected, of whom the government estimates 1.2 million lost their homes.

Several hundred spontaneous sites in and around Port-au-Prince were established to house affected families, who continue to rely on the assistance of the international community and direct intervention of approximately 1,000 humanitarian organizations, including CARE. There was also a mass migration of an estimated 600,000 persons away from affected cities. Host families and communities in outlying areas are bearing much of the burden of supporting these dispaced people.


CARE began working in Haiti in 1954 to provide relief assistance after Hurricane Hazel. Our work shifted to development programming in 1959, with a focus on maternal and child nutrition. In 1966, CARE launched community development activities in the country's impoverished Northwest region. In the 1970s, we broadened our focus to include health care for preschool children, safe drinking water and income-generating activities. By the 1980s CARE's programming in Haiti included agriculture and natural resources, preschool education, water and sanitation, primary health care and small enterprise projects. Following the coup d'état in 1991, CARE concentrated on humanitarian feeding and rehabilitation projects.

Today, CARE's work in Haiti reflects an integrated approach, with projects in HIV and AIDS, reproductive health, maternal and child health, education, food security, and water and sanitation. CARE works closely with local nongovernment organizations (NGOs), private companies, community organizations and the Haitian government to build local capacity and achieve sustainable development.

Our emergency response efforts in Haiti also have continued. More recently, tropical storm Jeanne nearly destroyed the regional capital city of Arbonite in 2004. Following that emergency, CARE Haiti developed a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan focused on response to ''recurrent emergencies in the country: flooding and drought. This plan was used in 2008 when four storms, including hurricanes, crossed the country in August and September of that year.

CARE's work in emergencies and times of crisis goes back to our founding in the aftermath of World War II to deliver food and supplies to war-torn Europe by means of the famous ''CARE Packages®.'' In the decades since, we have responded to hundreds of humanitarian disasters worldwide – from earthquakes, to floods, to the consequences of armed conflict. Today, CARE reaches some 11.7 million people each year with immediate relief and long-term assistance coping with, preparing for and preventing disasters.