On August 14, 2021, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southwestern Haiti, approximately 80 miles west of the capital Port-au-Prince. The devastating earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks killed more than 2,000 people and injured tens of thousands more. The disaster also caused widespread damage to hundreds of buildings — including hospitals and schools — and damaged or destroyed at least 129,000 homes, along with critical infrastructure, and roads.
Here are three ways USAID is responding to the Haiti earthquake to help affected communities.
1. Immediately Deploying a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team
USAID immediately deployed an elite Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to Haiti to lead and coordinate the U.S. Government’s response to the earthquake, and disaster experts from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance arrived the same day the earthquake struck. One day later, USAID deployed 65 members of Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s urban search and rescue (USAR) team and four canines to join the DART, as well as five additional Fairfax County USAR members to support to the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team.
Members of the USAID DART immediately got to work searching for survivors, determining humanitarian needs, and coordinating relief efforts with the Government of Haiti and humanitarian partners. The DART continues to expand relief operations — particularly in the departments of Grand’Anse, Sud, and Nippes in southwestern Haiti — and work with partners to get aid into the hands of people who need it as quickly as possible.
The DART also includes ten locally-based USAID disaster experts who were activated immediately after the earthquake hit. These on-call disaster experts — who have day jobs working as teachers, firefighters, accountants, statisticians, engineers, agronomists, journalists, and more — know the land, language, and culture and provide critical knowledge from their local communities that is essential to our response.
They are now coordinating with local Emergency Operations Centers in Grand’Anse, Nippes, and Sud and conducting damage and needs assessments in affected towns.
2. Working with U.S. Government Partners
The earthquake caused extensive damage to roads and bridges. This, along with insecurity on key routes, have made it difficult for disaster responders to access some of the hardest-hit communities in rural southwest Haiti using ground transportation. In order to reach these affected areas and expand our relief operations, USAID requested the unique capabilities of the U.S. Department of the Defense to provide air transport.
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) established Joint Task Force-Haiti and is 12 providing helicopters to support USAID-led disaster response efforts by airlifting humanitarian supplies — provided by USAID and other relief organizations — as well as humanitarian and response staff to Grand’Anse, Sud, and Nippes.
The U.S. Coast Guard also continues to transport relief personnel to affected areas while medevacing injured patients to Port-au-Prince for medical treatment.
3. Providing Relief Supplies
USAID is supporting partners on the ground that are reaching at least 20,000 people with much-needed lifesaving aid. In Les Cayes and Nippes, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — a long-standing USAID partner in Haiti — has been distributing hygiene kits, jerry cans to safely store water, blankets, kitchen sets, as well as plastic sheeting and shelter repair kits to thousands of people. These were pulled from the stockpile of relief supplies that USAID supports IOM to maintain year-round throughout Haiti to be ready to help nearly 50,000 individuals if and when disaster strikes.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) is also using more than 100 metric tons of pre-positioned USAID food — including rice, beans, and vegetable oil — to distribute hot meals to thousands of people in hospitals in Jérémie and Les Cayes. Because Haiti is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, USAID also supports WFP to maintain sufficient pre-positioned food in Haiti all year to meet the needs of approximately 300,000 people for one month.
How You Can Help
We’ve shared three ways that we are helping after the Haiti earthquake, and there are ways that you can help, too. The best way to help survivors and support disaster relief efforts is by providing monetary donations to professional aid groups working on the ground. Decades of experience have shown that this is the most economical, efficient, and effective way to help, allowing reputable aid groups to purchase exactly what is needed, when it is needed.
The Center for International Disaster Information has tips on ways you can help people affected, including how you can repurpose material donations, and what you can do to ensure your donations reach survivors.