On August 14, 2021, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southwestern Haiti, killing more than 2,200 people and leaving at least 600,000 in need of humanitarian assistance. On the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, USAID looks back on how the disaster response saved lives, supported communities, and showcased the resilience of the Haitian people.
“One of the most devastating things about an earthquake is that unlike a storm or volcano eruption, you cannot see it coming. There is no warning. This makes the need for speed even greater than ever.” – Tim Callaghan, USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance Latin America and Caribbean Regional Director
On August 14, 2021, the same day the earthquake struck Haiti, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), comprising elite disaster and technical experts from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. Their mission: To lead and coordinate the U.S. government’s humanitarian response on the ground.
From the time the team touched down in Haiti, the DART worked to search for survivors, assess humanitarian needs, and coordinate with the government of Haiti and humanitarian partners to provide lifesaving assistance to people affected by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake.
Here are the ways USAID assisted the people of Haiti during the response, as well as how we continue to support communities one year later:
Boots on the Ground in the Hardest-Hit Areas
Because of the earthquake’s large-scale damage — with more than 115,000 houses and crucial infrastructure damaged or destroyed — the Government of Haiti requested urban search and rescue assistance, and USAID answered the call.
The USAID Urban Search-and-Rescue (USAR) team members from Fairfax County, Virginia’s Fire and Rescue Department arrived in Haiti on August 15. The USAR team — made up of 65 search-and-rescue personnel and four canines — traveled with 52,000 pounds of specialized equipment — including tools to help break through concrete, such as saws and drills, as well as medical equipment.
During their time on the ground, the USAR members conducted structural assessments of earthquake-damaged buildings, served as a crucial source of information on conditions and needs in the hardest-hit areas, and in a few instances, even provided medical care.
“Our teams helped identify the communities’ immediate needs and relay them back to our counterparts on the USAID DART. These activities were critical to provide a voice for the community, ” John Dumsick, USAR Structural Specialist, explained.
In some communities, residents were still sleeping in the streets days after the initial earthquake due to a fear of aftershocks and building collapse. The USAR members reached 15 of the hardest hit communities while in Haiti.
“Our reconnaissance team was able to rapidly review the structural integrity of many of these buildings and provide some assurances and ease some of the concerns of these communities, who have been through so much,” Dumsick added.
Read the full photostory here.
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