Haiti: Resilience in times of crisis


Originally published on UN Women's website.

When Haiti was struck by an earthquake in 2021, the country was already reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and political instability. The disaster escalated the risk of violence that Haitian women and girls faced, particularly those living with disabilities.

IDEH workers provide hygiene kits to women with disabilities during a COVID-19 information session. Photo: IDEH
IDEH workers provide hygiene kits to women with disabilities during a COVID-19 information session. Photo: IDEH

“The current insecurity and socio-political context has disturbed the many advocacy efforts to recognize the different forms of violence against women living with disabilities, and to inform them about their rights and duties,” says Esther Randiche, Executive Director of Initiative pour un Développement Equitable en Haiti (IDEH).

Funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), IDEH runs a project in two provinces of Haiti, Gonaives and Hinche, to prevent violence against women and girls living with disabilities and support survivors. The project builds awareness on gender-based violence in the community, while ensuring better access to inclusive and non-discriminatory services for survivors. It also offers leadership trainings to women with disabilities. However, as with many essential services, IDEH’s services were also disrupted by the crises.

Earlier in 2021, a fire destroyed a temporary camp that was hosting several women survivors of violence living with disabilities, including some IDEH beneficiaries, killing at least two and leaving many others injured and displaced. Shortly after, the earthquake brought more devastation. With support from the UN Trust Fund, IDEH activated an Emergency Fund to distribute food packages and sanitary hygiene kits to 150 survivors living with disabilities. The fund also helped provide medical and psychosocial support and set up a mobile clinic for women living with disabilities.

With the Emergency Fund, IDEH also organized self-care activities for staff who were also deeply impacted by the multiple and ongoing crises.

“The Fund has allowed us to provide a safety net to our beneficiaries and to build our organization’s resilience,” explained Esther Randiche. Building its own resilience was critical to continue serving women survivors. IDEH had already had a rocky start in the first year of the project as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country in 2020. At the time, the UN Trust Fund’s Five-Point Plan helped organizations like IDEH to quickly adapt and continue to assist women survivors of violence.

IDEH was able to distribute sanitary kits and food to women survivors, prepare Braille documents on gender-based violence for visually impaired and blind women at risk of violence, so that they could get verified information and access available services. With the grant from the UN Trust Fund, IDEH collaborated with other local disability organizations to train government institutions to deliver disability-inclusive services as part of their COVID-19 response.

Worldwide, women and girls living with disabilities are twice as likely to be survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence and up to three times more at risk of rapei. In Haiti, women and girls living with disabilities often face discrimination when they try to access justice or health services.

Despite the many challenges that IDEH faced, more than 100 women living with disabilities are now better aware of their rights and also able and more likely to identify and report cases of gender-based violence. Around 150 women survivors have received immediate assistance through IDEH since the pandemic and the earthquake. Moreover, IDEH works with other local organizations to increase their understanding of violence against women and girls living with disabilities, so that they are better equipped to support women survivors with disabilities in seeking legal action.

“Despite the multiple challenges, IDEH’s capacity to adapt, recalibrate, and come back with creative solutions and commitment to serve the most marginalized women in Haiti is truly inspiring. Time after time, they come back stronger and more determined to act,” said Mila Ioncheva, UN Trust Fund Portfolio Manager.