M. Tataryn & K. Blanchet, Centre for Disability Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom


On the 12th of January, 2010, the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding  communities were devastated by a massive earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and left over 300,000 injured, many with severe disabling conditions such as spinal cord injuries and limb injuries requiring amputation. Consequently, the humanitarian response to the earthquake included a massive mobilisation in the delivery of physical rehabilitation services: prosthetics, orthotics, physiotherapy. To coordinate the roll-out of these services, an Injury, Rehabilitation and Disability Working Group was spearheaded by the WHO and, for its first year, managed jointly by the State Secretariat for Inclusion of People with Disabilities and two international non-governmental organisations (Handicap International and CBM). A study was carried in 2011 evaluating the effectiveness of the emergency rehabilitation response by interviewing over 125 UN and NGO staff, Haitian government officials and beneficiaries in a combination of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions.

The analysis focused on the interventions from the rehabilitation sector compared with post-earthquake responses in other humanitarian sectors (including health and food distribution). Significant challenges in the Haitian humanitarian response centred on major difficulties with coordination between international actors as well as with local and national authorities. The lack of involvement of the Haitian government at the very beginning of the response as well as the exclusion of Haitian civil society (ex. Disabled People’s Organisations) due to the inaccessibility of coordination meetings (barriers related to language and venues) were also touched upon. The study also found that the interventions focused on centres and projects instead of adopting a sectoral approach encompassing various aspects of rehabilitation (including information system, policies and legislation). The paper concludes by exploring the positive and negative aspects of a systemic rehabilitation response in the achievement of overall goals of disability mainstreaming, as articulated in international standards applicable in humanitarian emergency responses such as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Revised SPHERE Guidelines.

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