Women injured by the earthquake at OFATMA hospital in the Cayes, Haiti. 2021 | © R.CREWS/HI
Of the estimated 800,000 people affected by the earthquake in Haiti, women and girls with disabilities are among those most impacted. HI is on-site working to ensure their needs are accounted for.
The population in Haiti has long been exposed to issues of poverty, made worse by frequent natural disasters in the country. Today, in addition to inflation of the local currency, HI surveys of local markets found that the cost of basic goods has increased since the earthquake. A pack of women’s sanitary napkins was 75 Haitian gourdes before the earthquake, but now costs over 100. Furthermore, many are now without any income.
“Many women with disabilities have lost their tools for their income-generating activities,” says Marijoe Pierre, President of the Haitian Association for Women with Disabilities in the South. “A disabled woman seamstress lost her sewing machine in the rubble. She is a single mother with three children. This machine allowed her to feed her three children. She now lives with them in a camp for displaced people along the road to Torbec.”
As nearly 140,000 homes were damages or destroyed in the earthquake, thousands of people are left without shelter. Many must seek refuge in temporary living situations that do not meet accessibility requirements, leaving people with disabilities with very few suitable options.
“Women and girls with disabilities have been particularly affected by the earthquake,” says Estelle Levoyer, HI’s Emergency WASH, Food and Shelter Manager of the response team. “One month on, their living conditions are still critical. Many of them are living outdoors or in informal displacement sites with little to no access to decent shelters, sanitation facilities and hygiene items. They are also at higher risk of sexual violence.”
Local authorities and organizations have reported an increase in Gender Based Violence since the earthquake, to which women with disabilities are disproportionately at risk.
"The lives of women with disabilities are threatened in their shelters,” Marijoe explains. “They are particularly vulnerable because many cannot run away from threats. Deaf or blind women living in makeshift shelters in displacement sites cannot hear or see if a dangerous person is approaching. They are very exposed."
According to the UN, around 1500 people with disabilities have been identified in the three most affected regions (Nippes, Grand’Anse, South), the majority of which are women. In the over 500 emergency rehabilitation sessions carried out by HI’s rehabilitation team since August, 58% percent of HI’s beneficiaries have been women and girls.
HI’s emergency team is on-site implementing an emergency response to the crisis. They stress the importance of working closely with local actors to ensure that humanitarian initiatives take the most vulnerable people into account.
Estelle explains, “At this time, it is important for all humanitarian actors to coordinate and work closely with organisations of people with disabilities to identify and address factors that make it difficult for these women and girls to access assistance, as well as factors that promote their inclusion and protection.”
The Association for Women with Disabilities in the South is just one of the local actors with which HI is collaborating to help coordinate an adapted and accessible emergency response.
“People with disabilities must be included and prioritized,” says Marijoe. “NGOs must be in touch with the disability-led organizations, because they are the ones who know people with disabilities. Without them, there is no access to humanitarian assistance. We cannot do this alone.”