The Republic of Haiti came to the forefront of national and international attention with the earthquake of January 2010, when this already struggling country suffered a massive blow to its population, its health, and its infrastructure.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic together form the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Haiti, the smaller of the two countries, has a rich cultural heritage drawn from a combination of French, African, native Taíno, and colonial Spanish influences. Its two official languages, French and Haitian Creole, reflect its ethnic history.
The country has been characterized by political turbulence, poor public service delivery, and high rates of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, and disease. About half of the population live in urban areas. At the same time, a large proportion of Haiti’s people are engaged in agricultural activities, particularly subsistence farming. But over the years most of the island’s native forest cover has been destroyed and the trees used for fuel, with a corresponding degradation in soil quality.
The earthquake dealt a shattering blow, killing between 200,000 and 300,000 people. It destroyed many of the government buildings in the capital city, Port-au-Prince, as well as homes, businesses, and public works infrastructure. Many people who lost their homes relocated to tent cities and camps that were hastily constructed to provide temporary housing.
The earthquake put a spotlight on the absence of trained and organized local rescue services. Aid organizations and military personnel worldwide poured in to help rebuild the country.
ICMA’s involvement in Haiti began in 2011, when the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) selected ICMA to implement a Fire/EMS Station Procedures and Training Plan Development project to assist in the development of local fire and rescue capacity. Following the quake, construction has begun on fourteen new fire and rescue stations, one in each of the capital cities of Haiti’s ten geographical/administrative departments plus four additional locations. ICMA is engaged in helping them assess local hazards, establish organizational frameworks and standard operating procedures, plan equipment purchases, and design a program of instruction for fire/EMS personnel.