20 January 2022 - Haiti

Wood´s story: Overcoming Haiti’s 2021 earthquake at six months old

Juvena (22) and her son Wood (10 months)

Juvena (22) and her son Wood (10 months)

Wood was just six months old when a 7.2 earthquake devastated Haiti on 14th August, 2021. He overcame this adversity and now has access to quality health services, which are helping him to continue growing safely and protected.

The earthquake occurred in the context of extreme food insecurity in Haiti, the country’s worst wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that kept 4 million children out of school [1], gang violence, and political instability following the assassination of the president in July 2021.  

Three of the southernmost departments, South, Grand-Anse, and Nippes were the most affected. Wood, along with her mother and father, live in the aforementioned, hard-hit Grand-Anse department, in the Jérémie commune. In addition to this, Haiti is still recovering from the 2010, 7.0 magnitude, earthquake, as well as the 2017 Category 4 Hurricane Matthew, which also devastated these same southern departments.  

(…) During the last earthquake, my baby was saved by his grandmother’s quick thinking when a wall collapsed and was in danger of falling on him”, her mother, Juvena explained. 

Wood managed to survive but thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands more were left without access to a safe place to live, clean water, food, and access to quality health services. The earthquake left 650,000 people in need of emergency and humanitarian assistance [2]. 

Also, more than 90 health facilities were damaged impacting people’s access to life-saving medical care. Additionally, tropical Storm Grace struck the region a few days later causing flooding and landslides, increasing their vulnerability. 

When Wood was born, before the earthquake, her mother Juvena had to buy medicines for him “Since the birth of my baby, I was pushed further into misery because I’m still not able to meet my daily needs which means we had to forego medical care” Juvena explained. 

A large percentage of Haiti’s population lacks access to basic services, which in Haiti are mostly provided by private companies, rather than the government [3], being an extra cost for Haitians. Only 50% of the urban population has access to clean water, and even less, 30%, access to healthcare services. The numbers are worse in rural areas, where only 29% of the rural population has access to clean water and 12% access to medical services.  

To respond to the emergency, Save the Children's Emergency Health Unit deployed in the days following the earthquake and set up operations in Jérémie where Wood lives with his parents. Our health and logistics experts supported the government to re-start primary healthcare services in existing clinics that were damaged during the earthquake.  

“It was Save the Children who made it easier [to access healthcare] because I don’t have to buy drugs and pay for medical checks.” 

The health services included vaccinations, care for mothers, pregnant women and babies, mental health and psychosocial support, outpatient treatment for malnourished children and care for survivors of gender-based violence.  

Juvena regularly attends one of the clinics supported by the Emergency Health Unit and health services for Wood “[With Save the Children] medical services have really improved in terms of patient care, more medical staff, availability, etc. I bring my child to the health centre every month to be vaccinated. Since the earthquake, it’s easier because vaccines are more available.” 

Juvena also received a dignity kit distributed by the Emergency Health Unit and supplied by the UNFPA. These kits contained hygiene items to keep mothers and their babies clean and healthy, such as a bucket, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, sanitary pads, underwear, washing powder and a torch to move around at night safely. 

Apart from the need for medical services, there are other necessities to be covered in the country and a lot of work to be done. For now, Wood is growing healthy but there is a long way to go for him to be able to make her mother’s dream come truth. 

“I would like my child's life to be different than mine with access to education, health and economic and professional opportunities”.  

This dream represents most Haitian mothers’ dreams and an opportunity for us, international and local organizations to work with Haitian people to improve their lives. 


[1] Relief Web (2021). Haiti Earthquake Situation Report #3.https://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/haiti-earthquake-situation-report-no-3-31-august-2021  

[2] Relief Web (2021). Haiti Earthquake Situation Report #10. https://reliefweb.int/report/haiti/2021-haiti-earthquake-situation-report-10-december-16-2021 

[3] IDB (2015). Targeting Partnerships and flexibility are building blocks to provide basic services in Haiti. https://blogs.iadb.org/caribbean-dev-trends/en/targeting-partnerships-and-flexibility-are-building-blocks-to-provide-basic-services-in-haiti/ 

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