4.7 Case study: Haiti earthquake, January 2010—CARE’s WASH response

The 2010 earthquake struck Port au Prince and adjacent areas shortly after 5:00 pm on 11 January, affecting the entire population of this city of 2.25 million and killing over 200,000.  Survivors fled into the streets and set up temporary shelter in every square metre of open space in the city.

The CARE Haiti office, although damaged, was able to remain operational throughout.  Immediately after the earthquake, CARE staff mobilised water storage tanks and delivery vehicles, and commenced supplying safe drinking water to the spontaneous camps nearest to the Port au Prince office. This source of water was established within hours of the disaster and maintained for the following months.

Support personnel, including WASH specialists, from CARE USA and CARE International mobilised to assist immediately and arrived in Port au Prince over the following week. The WASH needs of the affected population were comprehensive—especially water, hygiene materials, and instruction and sanitation assistance.

CARE WASH staff connected immediately with the WASH Cluster, and obtained the latest data on the location and needs of the affected population, and details of the response plans of other agencies responding to the disaster.

The CARE Emergency Response Team promptly addressed the need to define the target population and settled on areas in Port au Prince and Leogane. Assessment teams were formed and began systematically enumerating number and condition of the people in the target areas, and assessed the availability of relief materials from UNICEF and other agencies.

Once the supply of safe water was established for CARE’s target group, the WASH focus concentrated on the delivery of hygiene information and the distribution of hygiene kits. It was clear from the outset that the need for sanitation was massive—open defecation was widespread and very few latrines were available, and the rate at which they could be supplied was not going to meet the demand. The risk of a major disease outbreak was high.

In consultation with other members of the WASH Cluster, CARE WASH personnel prioritised the provision of hand washing materials, the collection of excreta accumulating with solid waste, and intensified action on hygiene promotion. This approach was successful in maintaining the health of the population while the much slower task of building latrines and managing the removal of human excreta was addressed.

See the Emergency WASH wiki for other case studies.