The Haitian population affected by natural disaster, disease, and unemployment is so large and dispersed that relief efforts are much more difficult to coordinate. The 2010 earthquake in particular displaced some 1.5 million people and hit hardest in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Thousands of earthquake victims are still living in makeshift shelters and/or in dilapidated buildings in and outside of the city, some due to direct loss of homes and others, due to loss of land. Many government buildings in Port-Au-Prince were damaged in the quake, which had lead to the loss of important administrative records such as land deeds. Consequent land disputes have hindered housing development and left many Haitians destitute and living in camps scattered throughout the city and countryside.
Post-earthquake, many women in Port-Au-Prince are vulnerable to rape and other forms of sexual abuse. In return for sexual favors, many receive food, water, shelter, and/or protection for short periods of time. Women living in tent shelters in the nation’s capital are especially vulnerable to these types of crimes, which affect women of all ages, even young girls. “The dangers stem from lack of lighting, lack of security, lack of shelter and the fact that family and social networks that once offered protection were destroyed in the disaster. Underlying all of these conditions is life-threatening discrimination of women that results in rape and sexual abuse,” affirmed Ms. Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, a human rights advocacy group for women, in 2012.
Many Haitians with disabilities are also vulnerable to exploitation since they are subject to discrimination and do not receive appropriate medical care. The 2010 earthquake left thousands of Haitians disabled, both young and old, which ensures that greater prevalence of disability in Haiti will be a long-term phenomenon. Post-2010 earthquake, the Haitian government estimates that between 6 and 8 thousand Haitians lost limbs or digits. Thousands of others had complex or compound fractures, spinal cord injuries, extensive burns, or massive trauma with long-term implications. In the past, Haiti had very little legislation and few services for individuals with disabilities. ‘Disability rights’ were almost unheard of. As a result, there are a myriad of social stigmas that Haitians with disabilities face today. They have limited access to transportation, buildings, and homes and have significantly fewer opportunities for meaningful employment.
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