Haiti: Healing Haiti, Healing Ourselves

Woman with her children in Port-au-Prince camp - c.LisaDavisThe Problem:

The January 2010 earthquake caused catastrophic destruction in Haiti, which was already the hemisphere's poorest country. More than one million people lost their homes in the disaster. They are traumatized, bereaved and packed into filthy, makeshift camps. 

Because of the conditions in the camps, sexual violence is rampant.  Camps are overcrowded, without secure shelter, lighting or police. The social networks that normally provide protection have been destroyed. Women are raped in their tents, on the way to the latrine and while trying to bathe behind bits of plastic sheeting. With barely enough room to walk between the tents, there is no space for people to gather: the social isolation compounds people’s sense of despair.  

Families in the camps are almost entirely dependent on international food aid. But aid distribution has been slow and inequitable. Many people are still without food or basic provisions needed to cook, bathe and care for their families.

The vibrant community-based groups that have long helped Haitians survive poverty, abusive government and destructive foreign intervention were themselves devastated by the earthquake.

The Solution:

MADRE is working with our partner, KOFAVIV, to meet immediate needs of rape survivors in the camps and develop community-based anti-violence strategies that uphold the full range women’s human rights. KOFAVIV has over 1,000 members in the camps, and women know that they can turn to KOFAVIV if they've been raped. In support of KOFAVIV and the women of Haiti, MADRE is:

Delivering Humanitarian Aid including clean water, pots and pans for cooking, buckets for washing clothes, soap and sanitary napkins. 

Facilitating Psycho-social Support through peer-counseling groups of rape survivors who empower one another to heal and rebuild their lives.

Enhancing Security through nighttime community watch groups and deliveries of cell phones, whistles and flashlights to women in the camps.

Providing a Safe Space for women to gather, support one another and organize to meet their needs and rebuild their community networks.

Supporting Trainings for women on how to stay safe, manage stress, care for traumatized children and maintain family health and hygiene in the hazardous environment of the camps.

Seeking Justice for rape survivors by partnering with Haitian lawyers to pursue cases and advocating internationally for safe conditions in the camps and a Haitian-led reconstruction process that respects women’s human rights.

Strengthening our Partners as they work to rebuild the Haitian women’s movement in the wake of disaster.


The Results:

  • Rape survivors in the camps receive critical support from KOFAVIV members who accompany them to the hospital and to the police station.
  • Women who lost their homes and possessions in the earthquake now have life-sustaining supplies for taking care of themselves and their families.
  • Women have greater security and protection in the camp where KOFAVIV is operating. The community watch groups allow women to walk safely between the tents and to the bathroom. Women are moving from other camps to be closer to the support and services KOFAVIV offers.
  • Women who have survived rape are preparing to prosecute their attackers.
  • Women are transitioning from seeing themselves as victims of abuse to identifying as survivors who can fight for change.
  • Haitian women are advocating at the national and international level to combat violations of women's human rights.