Part I in a Series: Employment in Haiti
JÉRÉMIE, HAITI – Elda Vilmeney had a business selling Coca-Cola in bulk on Third Avenue in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. But the 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of Haiti in January 2010, and she hasn’t been able to economically recover in the more than two years since the disaster.
“While I was inside my business, everything began to shake, and I had no idea what was happening,” Vilmeney says. “When I hurried to get outside, my foot turned and broke in several places. The American Marines operated on my foot and inserted metal pins, which will remain there until I die.”
With her business destroyed, she says her family suffered.
“For over a month, my children and I slept on the street,” she says. “We had great difficulty finding anything to eat.”
Today, she cooks and sells food on the roadside. She says that although it’s been more than two years, she hasn’t been able to re-establish her business. Instead, she and her husband are still seeking work in the informal sector.
“The earthquake destroyed my business with everything I had in it,” she says. “My husband gets little jobs from time to time, but what he brings in every month is hardly anything.”
She has four children – three boys and a girl.
“It is difficult for us to feed them, dress them and send them to school,” she says. “Jan. 12 really hurt us and left us a lot poorer than we already were. In Haiti, even when a person is able-bodied and not handicapped, it is still very hard to make a living to take care of my kids.”
Many women in Haiti say they lost their livelihoods in the 2010 earthquake. Two years later, these earthquake victims say they are still struggling to find employment in order to support themselves and their families. Nongovernmental organizations have offered special assistance to women, including microcredit schemes. The government has also prioritized women and offered them employment opportunities. Still, many women say they haven’t been able to recover from losing their sources of income.
Each year, 250 million people worldwide become victims of natural disasters, according to a 2009 report by Oxfam International, an international confederation working to end poverty and injustice. By 2015, that estimate climbs to 375 million. Women are among the most vulnerable groups, according to the report.
Many women in Haiti face special challenges as the economic lungs of their families. Sixty percent of Haitian households are headed by women, according to a recent U.N. conference for university students in Haiti about responsible government.
In rural areas of Haiti, female-headed households are more likely to live in poverty than male-headed households, according to a World Bank report.
Marcelin Rose Danie and her family were also victims of the earthquake. They lived in the center of Port-au-Prince.
“The house that I lived in had four floors,” she says. “I lived on the second floor, and while I