Haiti Update: One Year after the Devastating 2021 Earthquake

Marie Nicole Valcourt in her home damaged by the August 14, 2021 earthquake that struck Haiti's southern pennisula.

On August 14, 2021, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and amidst a history of political and economic unrest, a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti’s southern peninsula. The earthquake damaged over 130,000 homes, injured more than 12,000 people, and killed at least 2,200 people.

Three days after the earthquake, Tropical Storm Grace hit. The storm worsened conditions for the thousands still living on the street out of fear of the earthquake’s ongoing aftershocks.

Of FINCA’s more than 50,000 clients in Haiti, some 5,200 lived in Haiti’s southern horn near the epicenter of the earthquake. FINCA also had dozens of staff in the region.

Temporary shelter being used in Haiti one year after the August 14, 2021 earthquake.
A year after an earthquake devastated Haiti on August 14, 2021, many people still live in temporary shelters.

FINCA’s immediate response

FINCA rushed emergency aid to the region from Port-au-Prince and quickly assessed the damage. More 60% of FINCA clients in the region had been impacted. Some had lost their lives, many were injured, and hundreds lost their business or home.

To help people rebuild, FINCA launched an emergency response fund. With overwhelming support from donors, FINCA quickly raised more than $450,000. With these funds, FINCA forgave the loans to 827 clients who lost a business or home due to the earthquake. Getting these businesses operational was critical to humanitarian efforts. Their little shops are the backbone of the food supply chain. FINCA also ensured that staff had food, hygiene supplies and temporary shelter so they could get back on their feet and support their clients.

A Brave Woman

Standing next to the broken-down walls of what was once her home and store, it is all coming back to Marie Nicole Valcourt. The ground shaking, the fear, the run to safety and the cries for help. On August 14, 2021, the earthquake took away in seconds the fruits of lifelong efforts. What had been a busy business day for the mother of two ended as a nightmare for Marie Nicole and tens of thousands of others.

While most of her neighbors were still dazed, Marie Nicole collected the few belongings she could save and sought safety for herself and her family in the countryside. The children have stayed in the countryside, but Marie Nicole returned to town so she can make a living. The support that she received from FINCA and others was helpful but reconstructing a life from scratch is hard.

Keeping Her Children in School

Using a new loan from FINCA, Marie Nicole launched a business buying and selling propane gas canisters. It was an opportune moment as propane was in short supply. “I did not have a lot of cash. I needed to be smart in choosing the items to trade” she says. While she slowly worked to rebuild her house, she branched out into other products.

Marie Nicole now tries to carry a wide range of items though admits that her inventory is scarce as political and gang violence over the last year have made it increasingly difficult. “I pay double the transportation fees I used to,” she says. “Sometimes you are not even sure if you will ever see the goods you paid for.”

Since Marie Nicole is still staying at a friend’s home, her children remain in the countryside. “It has been a tough decision. I am heartbroken.” But Marie Nicole is a realistic woman. “Given the situation, the children have to stay with their grandfather so that I can invest in the business.” By earning a living, she can ensure that they stay in school. Not disrupting their studies any more than is necessary is her top priority.

Preparing for the Next Disaster

Haiti has faced numerous social, economic, political, and natural upheavals in recent years. Political unrest includes the assassination of Haitian President Moise in late 2021. And there have also been two smaller earthquakes in 2022. But Marie Nicole and the rest of the people of Haiti continue to demonstrate resilience amidst the challenges and future uncertainty.

Among all those issues and uncertainties, Marie Nicole is relieved and grateful for the day she became a member of FINCA’s Fanm Vanyan (Brave Women) Village Banking group. “I am thankful for FINCA’s trust and that you did not give up on us. I will continue working hard to honor this trust and secure a better tomorrow for my children.”