First Person: Ready to go back home a year after Haiti earthquake
10 August 2022
A woman who was forced to flee her home when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on 14 August 2021, has said she is ready to go home. Plaisimond Milaure’s house was one of tens of thousands that was destroyed or rendered inhabitable across three departments in the south of Haiti. She’s been living in a tent outside the city of Les Cayes for the last year receiving support from a range of United Nations agencies.
“When the earthquake struck, I had no idea what is was as I had never experienced something so load and dramatic before. I thought it was an act of God and I was terrified. My whole house was shaking so I rushed outside with my daughter to see what was going on and then I realized it was a tremor from beneath the earth. Then part of my house collapsed and large cracks appeared in its cinder block walls.
We were lucky, because no-one in my family was injured, but I knew many neighbours who died. The community, which is rural and made up of farmers and people buying and selling goods, came together and we helped each other. We saved many children by digging them from beneath the rubble.
I think the earthquake made us stronger as a community and that has helped us when we moved into this temporary camp in Devirel on the edge of the city of Les Cayes just five days after we fled from our home.
Life here is very tough as we live, two or three people at a time, in small shelters made from plastic sheeting. It is hot because there are no trees here and when it rains it is very muddy. There is not much to eat, but we continue to look after each other and share the small amount of food that we have.
When we arrived here, we received a lot of support from the United Nations*. We received a hygiene kit and were able to use a bathroom which has been built for us. I received some cash payments so I could afford to carry on sending my daughter to school and at one point she received free school meals. My aunt also received some financial support as she is disabled and particularly vulnerable. I’m very grateful for this support.
Sometimes, I can earn money by helping to harvest a neighbour’s crops, but it’s difficult to find work, so I have to live on very little. It’s difficult to change one’s life if you don’t have the financial means to do so. I would like to return to my home with my daughter, but I’m too scared to do that before I repair it. So, I will try and save some money to make the repairs.
One year after the earthquake, I am still optimistic for the future, but I know I can rely on myself and my community for a better life.”
*A range of UN agencies provided support to Plaisimond Milaure and her neighbours, including cash transfers for vulnerable and disabled people as well as to support the schooling of kids (International Organization for Migration, IOM) hygiene kits (IOM and UNFPA) bathroom facilities (UNICEF) and school meals, World Food Programme, WFP. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) coordinated the UN’s post-earthquake response.
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Organization for Migration
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs