It’s hard to believe that two years have already passed since the devastating earthquake which struck Haiti on 12 January 2010. There’s been a lot of media coverage of this ‘anniversary’ over the last couple of days, largely focussed on reports that aid money is still not getting through to people, and that some 500,000 people are still living in emergency shelters.
It’s true that there are still huge challenges in Haiti. But it’s also true that there have been successes. A year ago, the number of people living in emergency shelter was a million. That number has been halved in a year. It’s still a shocking number, but progress is being slowly being made, and it’s important that we recognise this too. There are good news stories in Haiti – not enough of them by a long way, but they are there.
That’s why I thought I’d share this photo that landed in my inbox at work yesterday. Taken by a colleague of mine in Haiti a few weeks ago, it shows a very different picture from those that you’ll see in the mainstream media – the moment that a refurbished home is handed over to its owner, in the coastal town of Leogane, some 12 miles from the capital, Port au Prince.
This is a major achievement in Leogane. 90% of the buildings there were completely destroyed in the earthquake; a city of 130,000 people reduced to rubble in minutes. The French charity ACTED (Agency for Technical Co-operation in Development) has been working over the last two years in Leogane to repair and refurbish as many of the buildings and homes that survived the earthquake as possible, with the help of funding from the UK. You can read more about the project on the DFID website.
This picture carries huge resonance for me. I visited Leogane six months after the quake, back in July 2010, and photographed some of ACTED’s engineers carrying out the first structural assessments part of this project, on the few buildings that were left standing. Although it’s taken 18 months, it’s great to see that this project at least is now nearly complete, and that a few more families are finally able to begin to put the earthquake behind them.