Nothing could have prepared us for the scale of Haiti’s disaster after a powerful earthquake struck on 12 January 2010. It created one of the most all-encompassing emergencies we've ever responded to. Within minutes, more than a quarter of million people were killed.Port-au-Prince turned to rubble as homes, government buildings and UN offices were destroyed. A million people were left homeless. We were one of the first agencies to respond, reaching 100,000 people within two weeks. By the end of the year, we’d helped 870,000 people. But Haiti was deep in poverty long before the disaster and will take many years to rebuild.

A little girl at Croix-des-Peres camp for displaced people in Leogane, Haiti.

Key facts

  • Haiti’s earthquake killed 230,000 people and left more than 1 million homeless.
  • 680,000 people are still living in tents.
  • By the end of 2010, we had helped a total of 870,000 people.
  • Now we are working with families on critical health, education, and protection issues, as well as preventing and treating cholera.

The challenges

A year on and progress is slow. Some neighbourhoods still look as though the earthquake took place yesterday – less than 15% of rubble has been cleared. Election violence in December 2010, Hurricane Thomas in the autumn and the spread of cholera have all hampered the relief effort. 680,000 people are still living in camps because they are unable to rebuild their homes, in part due to the slow adjudication of disputed land ownership by the land registry.

Underlying the shocking statistics of sudden disaster is the tremendous challenge of Haiti’s deep, longstanding poverty – a country in which there were no building standards for earthquake proofing and in which half of all children do not graduate from fifth grade.

“The capital was eerily quiet. There was no one around, no one selling in the streets. You could smell the deaths. People were being burnt on the side of the road, in pyres.” - Michelle Brown, emergency manager

Our achievements

  • We helped 870,000 people in the first year after Haiti’s earthquake, including clean water for more than 200,000.
  • We enrolled 45,000 children in temporary schools and trained 2,300 teachers. Watch Andrise's story
  • We registered 5,000 separated children and reunited more than 1,200 with their families. Working alongside other organisations, we successfully pressed the EU parliament to call for a moratorium on international adoptions.
  • Whenever possible we are combining our livelihoods, health and nutrition programmes so that we have maximum impact, and making sure that what we build is stronger, so that Haiti’s children can withstand the next disaster.
  • Watch our stunning co-production with ITV, Filming Their Future, to see what children in Haiti have to say about their lives. 

What’s urgent

The British public generously gave £106 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee, of which we are a member. But these emergency funds are now running out. This could mean that we are forced to cut back our health and clean-water services.

There are still numerous cholera cases and demand for our treatment centres is growing. They are particularly crucial for patients from remote rural areas who have nowhere else to go for treatment and have to travel great distances to reach them. Yet the cost of maintaining these 24/7 services is high.

If they close due to lack of resources, some patients may not have the time or money to get to the next closest treatment centre, which could be four to five hours away. Cholera has no such grace period, and the loss of these units will bring greater hardship and death to people that we wish to continue to serve.

What you can do

The enthusiasm and chatter of children in their new classrooms show that Haiti can rebuild. But we need your help.

Support our efforts to build earthquake-proof schools and homes.

Help us maintain our life-saving cholera treatment units.

Find out more