Half of the capital destroyed, 250,000 dead and 1 million displaced. This is the assessment of the earthquake that hit Haiti nine years ago, on January 12, 2010.
The staff of the United Nations Mission in Haiti were also affected and 102 of them perished during the disaster, including the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Hedi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa.
This was the “greatest loss of life in the history of peacekeeping operations in the world. UN, said UN Staff Union President Stephen Kisambira at the time.
One of the survivors is Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, who is currently in charge of communication at the UN mission. United Nations Justice in Haiti (UNMIJUSTH), seven months pregnant at the time, just days from her maternity leave. She was at the headquarters of the Mission that preceded UNMIJUSTH, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), when the earthquake struck.
The building collapsed completely, but Ms. La Combe managed to escape through a collapsed wall. For many hours, she and her surviving colleagues searched the rubble for anyone stuck in the rubble.
Two days later, she reluctantly left Haiti, a situation she calls “trauma.” “, His instinct being to help the UN and the Haitian people. She finally returned to Haiti in 2013, happy to be able to play a role in rebuilding the country and honoring her colleagues who disappeared with her work.
Nine years after the earthquake, the situation in Haiti is very different. According to Ms. de la Combe, the government is now much better prepared for similar natural disasters.
“A few months ago, an earthquake occurred in the north of the country. The state was ready and they sent their staff to support those affected without MINUJUSTH involvement. It was not a major earthquake, but now the people know how to react. And most importantly, we regularly hear how important it is to build better, to build solidly in the event of another earthquake, so as not to expose people.