Present in Haiti even before the earthquake of January 2010, Handicap International was able to launch an immediate earthquake response on a scale unprecedented in the organization’s history. Handicap International’s emergency humanitarian relief effort lasted almost two years. Its efforts now focus on development activities to help the country build the structures necessary to case-manage people with disabilities and ensure their full inclusion in Haitian society, as well as disaster preparedness.
Handicap International launched its first operations in Haiti in 2008. One of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti is regularly affected by natural disasters and has suffered from decades of political instability. The devastating earthquake of 2010 killed more than 230,00 people and as many as 4,000 survivors underwent amputations to save their lives. Subsequent hurricanes, including Isaac, Sandy, and most recently Matthew in October, 2016, left the already battered populace in a state of even greater vulnerability.
People living in the capital Port-au-Prince have acute needs, resulting from high unemployment, especially among young people, the rising cost of basic foods, insecurity, and poor access to water and education. Set against this background of widespread poverty, the situation facing people with disabilities is even more alarming and their basic needs are often not met (water, food, accommodation, care, access to orthopedic-fitting and security).
Handicap International currently employs 124 Haitians and 13 expatriate staff.
- Disaster preparedness and response
- Accessibility and transport
- Universal design & case-management
- Training rehabilitation professionals
- Child protection
- Social and economic inclusion
Disaster Preparedness and Response
Handicap International's emergency response to the 2010 earthquake made a considerable impact: 90,000 people received care, 1,400 benefited from orthopedic fittings, 5,600 mobility aids were distributed, 4,500 rehabilitation sessions were held, and 25,000 people received psychological support. Handicap International's emergency response teams are still active in Haiti through a project called the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), which was set up in partnership with UNICEF to manage the monitoring, alert systems and response to the natural disasters which regularly plague the country. When a new emergency arises, the RRM is capable of mobilizing pre-identified teams to perform immediate assessments and provide a multi-sector response including the distribution of essential items (sheets, hygiene and cooking kits, etc.) and water and the establishment of sanitation, health, education and child protection services. The mechanism forms an integral part of the national contingency plan of the Haitian Civil Protection Department. It was put to the test in 2012 when Hurricane Isaac and Hurricane Sandy struck.
Handicap International has comprehensively mapped the vulnerability of target areas to identify those Haitians who are most at risk in the event of climatic disasters, analyze local operators’ existing response mechanisms, and suggest emergency preparation training modules. These trainings complement the disaster risk management programs that are currently run by operators such as the Haitian Red Cross and Civil Protection Department. In the event of a major crisis, using its pre-positioned stocks (Port-au-Prince, Petit-Goâve and Jacmel) and based on an appropriate intervention methodology (mapping, intervention thresholds and intervention resource kit), Handicap International will be able to meet the needs of 25,000 people.
After Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew on October 4, 2016, which affected more than two million people, Handicap International launched a new emergency response in aid of the victims. The response is expected to last several months. The organization deployed two mobile teams in the city of Les Cayes to assess the city’s hospitals and rehabilitation services, supply wheelchairs, crutches and walking frames, organize rehabilitation sessions for the injured and provide psychological support to help victims overcome their trauma. Handicap International organized the distribution of 1,000 emergency kits containing a toolbox, ropes and sheets, so that people could build shelters and live in decent conditions, and distributed hygiene kits and essential household items to stop the spread of epidemics. The organization also set up a logistics platform in the cities of Les Cayes and Jérémie to ensure humanitarian aid reached people living in inaccessible areas, by land or sea. It also provided other humanitarian actors with advice to make sure the most vulnerable people (heads of households, older or disabled people, and so on) benefit from their services.
Accessibility and Transport
This project aims to promote the accessibility of intracity transport in Port-au-Prince for people with mobility problems. Working in partnership with engineering universities, Handicap International is setting up a pilot project to render a more accessible public transport option — one initial result will be an accessible a “tap-tap” stop in a district of Port-au-Prince. Currently, Haiti's "tap-tap" buses are difficult for people with disabilities to access. This work will benefit 100 tap-tap drivers, 1,200 passengers, and 150 people with mobility problems. Handicap International also works to improve road safety, as accidents are a serious cause of disability, through awareness raising campaigns and by making public transportation increasingly accessible to people with disabilities.
Universal Design & Case-Management
Handicap International works with construction professionals to ensure that new buildings and other structures are accessible to people with disabilities. Following the 2010 earthquake, the organization built more than 1,000 accessible homes for people with disabilities. Currently, Handicap International works with partner organizations CARE, OXFAM and Concern to help 2,190 Haitians with disabilities living in camps to ensure that they can work to set up new homes.
Training Rehabilitation Professionals
In 2012, the organization transferred some of its physical rehabilitation operations to a local partner, Healing Hands for Haiti, which built a new orthopedic-fitting center in the capital. When the earthquake struck in 2010, the country counted a mere 13 physical therapists, and half of those were living abroad. As a result, the organization began offering first-ever training sessions in Haiti for rehabilitation and orthopedics. The courses train Haitian professionals to case-manage patients who need to be fitted with orthopedic devices, or who need rehabilitation. This project benefits 72 rehabilitation technical students and 27 orthopedic technical students who will go on to provide orthopedic fittings and functional rehabilitation.
Handicap International's aim is not to act as a long-term substitute for a country's national health services, but to create the conditions for the management of its activities by local teams. Handicap International is helping its local partners to offer a quality rehabilitation service to people with disabilities, particularly upper-limb amputees. This directly benefits around 1,250 people, including people with disabilities and their families. The organization works with partners including Healing Hands for Haiti, Nos Petits Frères et Sœurs, public institutions and local rehabilitation facilities.
Handicap International has also assisted civil society operators and the Ministry for Social Affairs in reforming and establishing child protection mechanisms for public institutions and organizations, particularly around the rights and needs of children with disabilities.
Staff have assisted a steering committee working on norms for host families and a system for placing children in children’s homes that takes into account disabilities. The organization compiled a technical document on identification and referral mechanisms for vulnerable children, and implemented child protection policies in children’s homes and host families, as well as developed of a set of recommendations on children’s transfer mechanism standards. This project benefited children with disabilities, child victims of violence, as well as the professionals case-managing children placed in institutions.
Social and Economic Inclusion
Handicap International runs an economic inclusion project for more than 200 people with disabilities in Port-au-Prince, working to enable them to earn a living for themselves and their families. As part of this project, the organization helps people with disabilities draw up personalized economic plans. The teams also raise awareness among inhabitants and stakeholders regarding economic inclusion and people with disabilities’ potential in terms of undertaking professional work.