8 Years After the 2010 Earthquake, Older People Help Build Resilience in Haiti

older people in HaitiWhen the Category 5 Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, Jean Lessage Charles lost his home. "The hurricane affected the roof of my house, and the flooding that followed has destroyed its remains," Mr. Charles said. Many were in the same position. Urban residents often live in poorly constructed homes and the country itself can afford to spend little on disaster reduction measures.

At 69, Mr. Charles faced extreme challenges during and after Matthew. Older people are more likely to have limitations in mobility, making it more difficult to flee in an emergency. Their needs are also commonly overlooked by traditional aid programs. Many are unable to stand long hours in line for relief items or walk long distances to receive health services.

Through a partnership between HelpAge and AARP, however, Mr. Charles and others like him are not only receiving the assistance they need, but leading a growing local infrastructure for disaster preparedness. As a founding member of an Older Persons Association (OPA) in Cayes, Mr. Charles helps ensure older people are reached during emergencies and receive the critical, life-saving services they need, but may not have access to.

Jean Lessage Charles Jean Lessage Charles, 69, OPA Committee Chair

HelpAge and AARP helped establish the OPA in Cayes and many others in Haiti during its coordinated response to the 2010 earthquake. These OPAs strengthen local networks to make sure older people won't be forgotten in times of humanitarian crises.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, the strengthening of local knowledge bases also extended to health systems. HelpAge worked with Handicap International, the Haitian Society for the Blind (SHAA), and other humanitarian agencies to provide functional rehabilitation and referral services, trainings to healthcare providers, and assistive equipment to healthcare facilities.

As the 8th anniversary of the 2010 earthquake draws near, we are reminded that, while the challenges to recovery are still great, a burgeoning community network offers renewed strength to face the future. True resilience leaves no one behind. AARP and HelpAge are committed to ensuring that people like Mr. Charles will not only be a focus of emergency response, but drivers of it as well.

About HelpAge
HelpAge's mission is to improve the lives of older people and their families in low and middle-income countries. With AARP as a strong partner, HelpAge has been able to address the short, medium and long-term needs of the older Haitian population in the aftermath of natural disasters. Visit us at www.helpageusa.org