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Habitat homes in Haiti earthquake zone proved to be resilient and safe

While Habitat has yet to complete detailed assessments of more than 1,800 homes we built or improved in partnership with families here after Hurricane Mathew’s devastation in 2016, early assessments indicate that roughly 98% of them are safe after the earthquake, free of any significant damage.

This includes 15 new homes designed for elderly residents in Beaumont and funded by Maryland’s Habitat Choptank and 300 homes built in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, or ECHO.

But this is not the reality for most households in the areas impacted by the earthquake. Proof of this is the testimony of the mayor of Beaumont, Marcel Fortuné, who told Habitat for Humanity’s disaster response team in Haiti that he is still coming to terms with how much the city has lost; and how much remains to be rebuilt.

By Aug 19th, the death toll in Haiti stood at more than 1,900 as he spoke, including 45 residents of Beaumont, and roughly 10,000 injured — all figures expected to rise as search and rescue crews reach more areas. At least 61,000 homes have been destroyed across the region, and another 76,000 severely damaged.

According to rapid assessments conducted by Habitat Haiti and other organizations in partnership with the Haitian government, the earthquake destroyed nearly 1,400 homes in Beaumont alone. All the municipal buildings serving the city of 50,000, from the courthouse to the administrative offices, collapsed.

“We’re lucky this happened on a Saturday morning, when no one was in the building,” Fortuné says of the earthquake that started shaking the mountainous terrain on Aug. 14, 2021. “If not, we likely would have lost many of our staff members.”

Habitat for Humanity continues the work from the affected areas, with the goal of supporting the Haitian government and families in the aftermath of the disaster.

Habitat for Humanity Haiti was happy to participate in URBAcafe, a panel on urban resilience in Haiti organized through our partnership with the European Union. Habitat for Humanity was invited to provide expert opinion on international resilience in housing.

The socially distanced panel consisted of experts in the field, architects, engineers, as well as members of Haiti government in charge of building and construction regulations.

It featured lively debate about the true meaning of resilience, which is not just surviving a traumatic incident such as an earthquake, but to actively work to come out of it better than before. The meeting was attended by masked attendees as well as projected live on ZOOM for an international audience who also submitted questions and remarks on the topic.

Our lively conversations concluded that although Haiti has taken on many positive steps to prevent possible future national disasters from having such a terrible death toll in the future, there is still much work to be done. One of the steps the program has decided to take on to improve resilience, is research into alternative raw materials in construction, in partnership with three Universities in Haiti.

With your help, and your contributions, we can all make a difference.

Habitat Haiti recently hosted 147 people in a series of five seminars on property law in Haiti. The workshops were spread out over multiple days in order to ensure social distancing.

One of the speakers, Lawyer Jacques, explained, “I believe these interactive workshops are important…When you encourage intelligent discourse, people feel seen and are more engaged.” The workshop had several lively debates over urbanization, the proper management of slums, and what role, if any, the government has on managing places like Canaan, a community which sprang forth almost overnight following the 2010 earthquake.

James, a graduate student at Universite de l’Etat Haitienne, attended all five workshops as part of his research in social anthropology. Following a decree from then President Preval releasing the land in Canaan for private use, many people mistakenly believe that they now own the land where they have built their home. James told us, “I think these workshops are essential, if only to dispel the idea that the land now belongs to those who occupy it. Now, they can learn the channels to go through in order to claim proper ownership of the space they inhabit. They believe they can leave their spot of land to their children, but you cannot bequeath what you never owned in the first place.” Most of the attendees stated that they found a lot of value in the information that was shared and that they would in turn share it with friends and family members.

These workshops are set to continue over the next three years as Habitat is committed to ensuring all residents of Canaan understand their property rights.

James attended all five workshops as part of his research in social anthropology.

Residents adhered to social distancing and mask recommendations while attending the workshops.

Habitat report: Emerging economies undervalue housing’s share of GDP, risk missing a key to COVID-19 recovery

Over 30 years ago, the United Nations designated the first Monday of October as World Habitat Day. This year, we never could have foreseen the importance of safe and adequate shelter in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, contemplated Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO.

Access to adequate, affordable housing has been a longstanding issue in Haiti exacerbated by natural disasters. The Government of Haiti estimates that 700,000 housing units would be required to meet the pre-2010 earthquake situation and accommodate for urban growth.
According to data from ECLAC, in Latin America and the Caribbean, almost 100 million people (21% of the urban population) live in poverty, unsuitable housing, with little access to drinking water and sanitation.

For this reason, in the framework of World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity published the report “Cornerstone of Recovery” in which the organization considers how much official statistics might underestimate the role of housing in the economy, given the size of the informal sector in many emerging economies; and develops unofficial estimates.

The objective was to establish the role of housing in economies, representing both investment and housing consumption. To that end, the GDP of 11 countries was examined in detail, analyzing whether the housing sector could support economic recovery throughout the world. With this economic stimulus, low-income households would have access to safer and healthier homes, which would in turn help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The results are revealing: existing datasets in low- to middle-income countries are often incomplete or inaccurate, and efforts to measure housing’s contribution to the economy have largely focused on developed countries, according to the report”, says Ernesto Castro-García, Area Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International, Area Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Low- and middle-income countries tend to emphasize housing construction’s share of GDP in national datasets but not the larger housing services component, which includes rent or mortgages, maintenance and utilities.

As a result, housing is a larger-than-expected contributor to emerging economies’ GDP, averaging 13.1% in our sample countries, on par with sectors such as manufacturing, which often draws more attention in economic recovery plans.

Furthermore, informal housing and housing services are likely to be undercounted or not counted at all in national accounts. Informal housing alone, could contribute an additional 1.5% to 2.8% to GDP on average, if properly accounted for. This means housing is likely an even larger contributor to GDP – up to 21.8 percent of GDP in the countries studied. If only half of the informal sector is accounted for, it would increase housing’s addition to the GDP average from 13.1% to 14.6% the report found.

Unnoticed importance. Although interventions in the housing sector can produce large economic stimulus effects and would improve the health conditions of families, they are not used prominently by governments. Proof of this is that of the 196 countries that have developed an economic response to the pandemic, only 22% (or 11%) have explicitly included housing components in their plans, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Interventions in the housing sector can have not only large economic stimulus effects but also improve individual welfare and community health, by helping alleviate overcrowding and creating healthier living conditions. In addition, they create jobs and, particularly in the time of a pandemic, would help avoid the overcrowding that makes communities more vulnerable to the virus. Our country must review and include the housing market in the economic reactivation plan”, Jean Frenel Tham, National Director at Habitat for Humanity Haiti.

Additionally, the report authors recommend stimulus policies that, in cooperation with the international and private sectors, focus on middle- and low- income families while including the formal and informal housing market. It emphasizes short-term actions to make land available for housing; open access to finance for developers, households and landlords; provide equitable subsidies to households; and offer incentives to lenders and builders.

Title: “Cornerstone of Recovery: How Housing Can Help Emerging Market Economies Rebound from COVID-19. Commissioned by Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Housing.

Co-authored by Arthur Acolin, assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington, and Marja Hoek-Smit, director of the International Housing Finance Program of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center.

Analyzes housing data from 11 emerging market economies: Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda.






Tell us about yourself.
My name is Alexandra Jackson, and I’m a manager and land tenure specialist for the Leveraging Land in Haiti Program. I am a Christian woman. My passion is evangelism. In my spare time, I like to organize sessions of socially active evangelism with youth. I motivate them and accompany them to be more socially active. Our last activity was an awareness campaign towards COVID-19 in my neighborhood.

How long have you been working with HFHH?
February 2016.

What is your favorite memory with HFHH?
When we went to Cap Haitian, the day after an awareness workshop where we distributed manuals about property law, I met many women with our manuals in hand, notes scribbled along the margins. They took the time in less than a day to read it and come up with questions the very next day.

What are some of your interests? What do you do in your spare time?
I love working in property law in Haiti. I’ve been doing it for close to 10 years. I even earned my Master’s in property law. I like seeing how human relations are intertwined with property in Haiti.

Describe yourself using three words.
Altruistic, optimistic and trusting.

What are some of your goals for the future?
Aside from my goal to be even more involved in my community. I’d like to take on a specialty in property law management. This would go well with my current degree.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Haiti went into quarantine on March 20, 2020. Habitat for Humanity Haiti continued to work from home and in the field. Committed to a world where we can empower everyone with the tools they need to remain safe and healthy.

The leading NGO in housing continued construction on 22 houses, where construction had begun prior to quarantine measures.

“Today, we are facing a reality in which staying at home means staying safe, so it was imperative for the organization to continue with the construction of these 22 houses so we can save lives during the quarantine and give a safe place to call home to 22 families”, says Isabelle Vasquez, Communication and Resource Development officer in Habitat for Humanity Haiti.

Habitat for Humanity Haiti started awareness campaigns in rural parts of Haiti to inform the population of the dangers of the coronavirus and how to prevent its spread. Over 500 people have been informed of safety precautions such as social distancing at 6 feet apart from people outside of your household, avoiding greetings such as handshakes and kissing on the cheeks

Millions of people in Haiti live in homes that do not have clean water and can’t afford supplies to adequately treat their water. Which is why Habitat distributed 90 hand washing buckets and water storage containers. Three large permanent hand washing stations were also installed in areas where people congregate such as open markets and town squares.

In the near future, Habitat also plans to distribute 78 hygiene kits containing face masks, face shields, soap and water purification tablets. There is still much to do but we can not do it alone, we need you to join the cause and donate now.

In 2018, an earthquake rocked the north of Haiti. The city of Saint Louis du Nord was greatly impacted with some homes completely destroyed, Habitat for Humanity Haiti has built 11 houses for 11 families in need. One was the family of 71-year-old Cado who has been living in her Habitat home since December 2019. Her old house was destroyed in the earthquake. Cado, her daughter and grandchildren were forced to live in unsafe temporary accommodations, covered by a tarp.

Cado, who was widowed some years ago, has a table set up on her front porch to sell her wares. This is how she helps care for her family. Her daughter Olivine, 31, is a single mother of three adorable children, Ralph, 11, Larissa, 9, and Naelle, 4.

Cado explained to us that when she was young, her parents didn’t think it was that important to send their children to school, especially her, since she was a girl. As a result, she is unable to properly sign her name on anything. “They came up with a solution for people like me. They tell me to draw an X, and even that I can barely do,” she told us. This is why it was so important to her to make sure that all her children, and their children, learned to be able to read and write. She proudly boasts, “All the little ones know how to write their names, even the little one who is 4. She can’t quite write her name yet but can write the letter A. She’s learning her alphabet.” she says with a smile.

Her daughter Olivine tells us that it was very important for her kids to get an education. Without an education, you won’t understand how to fight a virus like COVID-19. A lot of people don’t understand how it works, how important it is to wash your hands properly and what measures to take to keep from spreading diseases. “If not for Habitat, we’d have to sleep where we get wet when it rains, with no real security from the elements.”

Every family deserves a home where they are safe to learn, play, and be comfortable enough to earn a gainful living. Together, we can help make a difference in the lives of families like Cado’s where three generations are able to thrive. Homes, Communities, Hope + You, help make all the difference.


This is one of the heartwarming stories that keep us going! Keysha, 11, and her mother Lavia, 42, lost their homes during the earthquake of 2018. They have been living in their new home built by Habitat Haiti since December 2019. Lavia was happy to talk to us about school, which just reopened following a shutdown due to COVID-19. She’s happy to be going back to school to see all her friends and continue to learn new things; one of her favorite things to learn is writing. She also showcased her colorful chalk writings on the wall, one of which praised her mother as “a great woman.” She explained that her mother works hard as a maid at the mayor’s office to provide for them and send her to school so she could have a better life, and that makes her a great woman!

Simon, 66, is one of Habitat for Humanity Haiti’s beneficiaries in Pestel, a community in the South of Haiti in the Grande Anse department. Simon tells us “I like that they didn’t just give us money or a house, we contributed to building our home, which made me feel proud. I was proud to be able to show my kids and grandkids the value of hard work and that I can contribute to my own well being. For that, I am grateful.” Simon’s house is one of the many that was greatly affected by Hurricane Matthew, and was part of our disaster relief efforts. Your donations help beneficiaries like Simon get back on their feet in a home that will now withstand future hurricanes and environmental catastrophes.



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Everyone deserves a decent place to live.