Helping women and children recover from the earthquake

UNICEF personnel do not hesitate to immediately mobilize to the earthquake zone to help the affected population.

Jean Panel Fanfan
On 17 August 2021, Eveline Dominique Chery, UNICEF Health Officer, visits patients of Ofatma Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti and their families, who wait for medical attention in a UNICEF-supplied tent in the hospital's courtyard.
21 August 2021

Today, August 19, on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, we would like to recognize the heroism of three people who, as soon as this emergency situation arose, did not hesitate to mobilize to the affected area to help the affected population.

The earthquake of August 14 has devastated the Grand Sud department and the latest toll is at least 2,189 dead and more than 12,200 injured. Some 130,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed. Humanitarian aid is on the ground to help populations affected by the earthquake and today, August 19, on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, we would like to recognize the heroism of three people who, immediately after the emergency, did not hesitate to go to the affected area to help the population.

Joseph Beneche unrolls the tape marking the location of the 10,000-liter flexible water tank that can supply 250 families. The UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene specialist has been working in the field since the earthquake struck Haiti on August 14. It was clear to him, he did not hesitate for a moment to go. He is an agronomical engineer and has accumulated extensive experience in everything related to water since 2015. He has been working in the humanitarian field since 2014 and joined UNICEF in 2018.

“In such disasters, it is important to ensure that victims have access to clean water and sanitation. This is a vital necessity, as these services make it possible to save lives. The context is difficult and we need to work as quickly as possible to get people to safety, especially given the hurricane season. As part of humanitarian aid, our primary mission is to help people. It's not just an obligation we have to fulfill as human beings, it's our duty,” he explains.

Helping his affected brothers and sisters is his greatest satisfaction, a satisfaction that is also personal. Help must be deployed as quickly as possible and in a dignified manner. That is what he is proud of. “Aid in the affected departments has just begun and at the beginning there are always obstacles, but we are making progress.” Beneche works tirelessly to provide water and sanitation to the affected population.

Beneche turns on the tap of the water dispenser that has just been installed in Marceline, not far from Cayes. Water gushes out and women and children rush to bring the precious liquid to their families.

Joseph beneche asegura la instalación del bidón para distribuir rápidamente el agua a las víctimas.
UNICEF Haiti/2021/Rouzier

Eveline Dominique Chery, Health and Nutrition Officer at UNICEF Cayes

“When the earthquake hit, I took my children out of the house and asked them to stay in the courtyard and not to return to the building because of the aftershocks,” said Eveline Dominique Chery, Health and Nutrition Officer at UNICEF Cayes. “I also made sure my colleagues were fine and advised my neighbors to stay outside.”

Since then, Eveline Dominique Chery has been at the center of the action. Regardless of her personal situation, she immediately came to the aid of those affected. This trained nurse and community health specialist was in the field a few minutes after the earthquake. “After the earthquake on Saturday, my first actions were spontaneous. I went to help the injured in the neighborhood. In a private vehicle, together with my colleague Alexandre from UNICEF, transported several seriously injured people to the airport, because there was an immediate flight and these injured people took the opportunity to return to Port-au-Prince and we also brought other injured people in hospitals,” she recalls. Eveline has a long experience having worked for more than 10 years in the humanitarian field.

The city of Les Cayes faced a catastrophic situation with hospitals affected and others overwhelmed by the wounded. Her first concern was the situation of the children in the hospital’s pediatric ward to make sure they were safe and receiving care. Very quickly, she worked with health authorities to identify the most urgent medical supply needs. That same night, despite security constraints in Port-au-Prince due to gang violence, a truckload of medical supplies that could help 30,000 people in 3 months was dispatched. It arrived in Les Cayes, 24 hours after the earthquake, which ensured continuity of care and attention to the injured.

UNICEF representatives make a visit to Ofatma Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, on 17 August 2021. The supplies, including gloves, painkillers, antibiotics and syringes will treat 30,000 earthquake victims over 3 months.

Ganddey Milorme, Emergency Officer at UNICEF in Port-au-Prince

Ganddey Milorme climbs into the truck to help the workers unload the bales of blankets, tarpaulins, buckets, soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc. He wants everything to go orderly but quickly and for the women and children affected by the earthquake in the Torbeck area to receive these items so they can begin to recover. Ganddey was at Carrefour to respond to the emergency caused by displacement due to gang violence in Martissant when the earthquake struck on Saturday, August 14. Less than 24 hours later, the emergency specialist, along with his UNICEF colleagues, boarded a vehicle to drive to the Cayes.

Ganddey pregunta sobre las víctimas del terremoto.
UNICEF Haiti/2021/Rouzier

For him, being a humanitarian is like priesthood. In fact, Ganddey joined UNICEF after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, to respond to the emergency and help children living in IDP camps go to school. From education, she moved to the emergency section.

“My concern is to help people as much as possible. I never waited for orders to intervene. If there is a need, I do it and then I report the situation, because every second counts. UNICEF gives me an opportunity to contribute to the humanitarian response,” says Ganddey.

Forty-eight hours after the earthquake, Tropical Depression Grace brought rain and strong winds to the Deep South, making it much more difficult for the affected populations, who opted to sleep outside buildings for fear of earthquakes. “When you have the opportunity to help, it'’ very rewarding. People live in a very vulnerable state. I simply took actions that I wish they would have done for me if I were in the same situation, giving them the confidence that they are not alone,” Ganddey said.