Half a capital city destroyed, 220,000 reported dead and 1 million residents displaced. This was the toll of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which struck on 12 January, 9 years ago.
Staff at the Mission in Haiti were also affected, and there were 102 UN casualties, including the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Hedi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa. It was the “biggest single loss of life in the history of the Peacekeeping,” the then-President of the Staff Union, Stephen Kisambira, said at the time.
One of the Survivors was Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, today the head of communications for the UN Mission for Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), who was seven months pregnant at the time and just a few days away from home leave. It was in the headquarters of MINUJUSTH's predecessor, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), when the quake hit.
The building completely collapsed, but Ms. Boutaud de la Combe managed to escape through a collapsed wall. For many hours, looking for someone still trapped under the building. Two days later, she reluctantly left Haiti, a situation she described as “a trauma,” her instinct being to help the UN and the people of Haiti. She returned to the country in 2013, to be happy to play a part in the rebuilding of the country, and to honor her lost colleagues with her work.
9 years after the earthquake, the situation in Haiti is very different. The government, says Ms. Boutaud de la Combe, is now much better prepared for similar natural disasters. “A few months ago there was an earthquake in the north of the country. The state is prepared and they feel their people to support those affected, without MINUJUSTH involvement. It was not a major earthquake, but now the population knows how to react. And most importantly, we hear regularly how important it is to build better, to build strongly in an earthquake case would hit, not to endanger the people. “