3 December 2010
In Les Cayes, a southern district of Haiti, the Red Cross is paying the coming year’s school fees for up to 8,000 children displaced by the earthquake.
Although Les Cayes was not directly affected by the quake, around 120,000 people flooded into the area immediately after the disaster, causing a huge negative economic impact on the already poor families who are now hosting the displaced.
Increasingly, parents are moving back to the capital to look for work, but leaving their children with relatives or friends. This places a great strain on the host families who were struggling to make ends meet even before the disaster.
The British Red Cross, in partnership with the Danish Red Cross, is supporting children in four communes in Les Cayes who are hosting people displaced by the earthquake.
Joseph Francis is headmaster at one of Les Cayes’ schools. He said: “The social consequences of the earthquake on our community were huge. People lost everything. Suddenly people couldn’t afford to send their children to school, even though our fees are not high, or to buy books or uniforms. And with extra displaced children to support, this has become even harder for the average family.”
Darna Bernard, 13, is a displaced child who has been living in Les Cayes since 12 January with her father, who is a mason. “I had a bad time in the earthquake. Many people died, including my little cousin. I broke my foot, but it is okay now,” she said. “I was very happy to come here to Les Cayes. Life is not easy here either but I am happy because I can go to school – French is my favourite subject. When I am older, I would like to be a teacher.”
Pierre Antoinne, headmaster of another school in Les Cayes, said: “Children and parents have great needs here. The Red Cross support will help them very much. It’s important because education is the basis of society. That is why I do this job.”
Pierre continued: “Before the earthquake the local factory closed and many people lost their jobs. Many were forced to go to the capital to look for work. Then the earthquake made things even worse.
“Most local families had people supporting them financially from Port-au-Prince, and most of these people either died or lost their jobs in the quake, stopping the vital flow of income to this area.”
The British Red Cross is also beginning a livelihoods programme in two communes in the area to help people get back on their feet through supporting development of small businesses.
Read more about our work in Haiti