Reflections on the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti

At 4:53 pm, January 12, 2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the island of Hispaniola, comprising the two nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, 15 miles southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

“In ten seconds, everything the population took decades to build was destroyed,” recalled Goldin Institute Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon, co-founder of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims). With additional damage from two aftershocks hours later, some three million people were impacted, one-third of the Haitian population. Over a million people were displaced as their homes were destroyed and between 85,000 and 316,000 were killed, based on varying estimates offered by USAID and the Haitian government with international relief agencies.

Global Associate Malya Villard Appolon, founder of KOFAVIV, reflects on the 2010 Earthquake.

Reflecting on the recently passed ninth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, Malya recalled, “On that day, nobody had a roof on top of their head. Everybody took refuge on the streets and parks, which caused what we called ‘the camp phenomenon’ and led to women enduring inhuman and degrading conditions. At that time, basic services were non-existent, insecurity was the norm, and women faced very difficult situations.” Assisted by the Goldin Institute as well as various international NGOs, Malya and her colleagues at KOFAVIV not only provided basic reproductive and medical assistance to displaced female survivors of sexual assault and rape, but also trained male allies to be guardians of women and girls at risk of gender-based violence.

The months and years since the earthquake have seen additional disasters, natural as well as man-made. In October of the same year as the earthquake, Haiti was hit by a cholera epidemic following the discovery of cases in the areas around the Artibonite River, the longest in the country and a major source of drinking water. Identified as a South Asian strain of the cholera bacteria, the disease was quickly traced to Nepalese soldiers who were stationed in Haiti as peacekeepers at that time. Before the epidemic could be mitigated, 770,000 Haitians were sickened and 9,200 died.

Two years later, Hurricane Sandy inflicted further physical damage on the island of Hispaniola, setting Haiti even further back on its slow march toward rehabilitation. Then last February, an internal investigation by Oxfam UK was made public, revealing systemic, widespread use of sex workers - many underage - by Oxfam foreign staff since the 2010 earthquake.

Despite the loss of their physical offices due to insecurity and death threats, the volunteers of KOFAVIV and the women they serve endure and persist. Exiled to the United States, Malya’s dedication and connection to the KOFAVIV community is unwavering.

“Even after nine years of these unfortunate events, the situation in Haiti remains the same,” she observed. “The consequences of the earthquake continue to haunt women. Their misery is not over. Even today, they are homeless and their safety is more at stake. They are raped every day.”

Update from Haitian Global Associate

KOFAVIV - Malya Villard-Appolon Partnership Update

Although still trying to gain political asylum during her extended stay in Philadelphia, PA, our Global Associate Malya Villard remains active with the day-to-day operations of the organization (KOFAVIV) she co-founded to combat gender-based violence in Haiti.

Providing her leadership and advice via a remote office out her temporary home in Pennsylvania, Malya has adapted to the challenges of keeping in touch with her colleagues by using Skype conversations and other technology. It is through those means that Malya was able to update us recently on how she and her colleague Earamithe continue the mission of KOFAVIV.  

Some of the men that will make up the Sensitization Agents providing safety to their community, undergo further training in the classroom.
Photo Credit: KOFAVIV

Training is the Key

In her report to us, Malya made it clear that the ongoing identification and training of those men within the community who can be most trusted and depended on to provide a safe environment to the women in the camps, is one of the most important steps to their program being successful. Malya and her team on the ground in Haiti seek out the male agents who can be best trained to share the information and workings of the project with both men and women living in their neighborhoods and communities. They in effect are relied upon to become members of a 'teaching tree' and the most recent numbers indicated by Malya show that over 2,000 persons have been reached and have a first-hand familiarity with the practices of the project – in short, they know how to prevent violence against women and support victims through their recovery.

A young man in the Sensitization training takes part in the instruction activities.
Photo Credit: KOFAVIV


[quote]The reduction of the violence in whatever forms must be effective to have a society that may benefit of all its rights and dignity. More and more, the KOFAVIV mission is being enacted by both men and women who are the best tools to reeducate the society."[/quote]

- KOFAVIV co-founder Malya Villard-Apollon


Much can be done with little resources – but much more needs to be done ... 

Throughout their report, Malya and Earamithe could not understate the importance of having the support and awareness of our own network at the Goldin Institute, in continuing to provide the security of the KOFAVIV offices and the security of women made most vulnerable to all forms of violence. There has been great progress made in reducing the violence and sexual assaults to women and young girls thanks to the project that these two women began in the aftermath of the 2010 Earthquake. However, a recent visit of a local camp (Delmas 33, or the Siló Camp, which is located north of Gerald Bataille Street) demonstrates the need for more work to be done and more support needed. 

During their visit, it was discovered tható Camp was not drawing electricity from available sources. The local coordinator of the camp, appointed by the state, decided that it was best to remove the camp from the electrical grid to avoid potential electrical fires. While this in itself may be a needed preventative measure that could save lives by eliminating fires, the most immediate impact is that the camp is blanketed in complete darkness after sunset. As we have learned from Malya and KOFAVIV, the highest number of attacks happen in areas that are underlit. It makes sense, the less light, the more emboldened an attacker will be to commit a crime (it's this simple reality that made the flashlight provided at the camps, one of the first and most effective tools against sexual attackers). Malya and her team have purposed a street-light installation that could be done safely and at minimal cost, but providing the safety against violence that far surpasses the return on the investment.


[quote]We also visited a village called Grace Village, where there are 4 areas and each zone has a name; Peace, Love, Hope, Union ...  it is a village well organized but also does not have any lighting."[/quote]

- From Malya's report


Training the Trainers - Members of the Sensitization Team that will provide safety within their communities.
Photo Credit: KOFAVIV

Malya's latest update also provided specific numbers showing the effectiveness of the KOFAVIV call center providing immediate help to victims. She also shared the agent scheduling that will continue to ensure there will be adequete coverage for those agents on-the-ground doing the very real work of protecting women against violence.

Find out how you can keep the mission of KOFAVIV going and click here to become more involved.   

June 2014 Newsletter

Goldin Institute Update and Newsletter

As we celebrate the welcome news that our partners at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti are bringing at least a dozen sexual violence cases to trial to hold perpetrators accountable, we ask for your help in raising awareness about the danger our Global Associate Malya Villard-Appolon and her partners at KOFAVIV continue to face for their heroic work to represent the victims and accompany them in the quest for justice.

As the co-founders of KOFAVIV and the most visible leaders representing victims of sexual violence, Malya and Marie Eramithe have come under increasing pressure from perpetrators to drop the charges and give up the fight for justice in the courts. Both have been accosted on the streets, bullets have been fired at their homes, the offices have been moved to more secure locations and their children have had to be relocated to escape the danger.

They will not give up the fight. Neither will we.

Our partners at World Wings International have long stood with us on the issue of defending human rights in Haiti - especially those rights directly impacting gender-based violence. As stated by our friend and colleague Alicia Cubota Smith:


[quote]Villard-Appolon, as with the many other women suffering from gender-based violence, needs our help. Public awareness is a crucial first step."[/quote]

- Alicia Cubota Smith


malya and staffAs a survivor of sexual violence herself, Malya's strength and courage to advocate on behalf of victims of violence is as clear as her voice. In 2012 Malya was awarded the CNN Hero of the Year AwardMalyastaff280by140  We are proud continue the fight against sexual violence in Haiti led by our Global Associate Malya Villard-Appolon and her colleague Marie Eramithe Delva. Since co-founding KOFAVIV in 2004, the organization has helped more than 4,000 rape survivors find safety, psychological support and/or legal aid. KOFAVIV is founded and staffed by victims of sexual and gender-based violence. You can learn more about KOFAVIV and the current situation by viewing this broadcast of Malya's lecture in Chicago at Loyola University from April 22, 2014.


Next Newsletter Preview:

Philippines:  Our projects in the Philippines continue to progress as Global Associate Dr. Susana Anayatin and her team work to provide access to clean water. Watch our next newsletter for new ways to understand and explore the water installation projects made possible through your support.

uganda and lissette

Uganda: Diane and Travis are traveling to Uganda to participate in a training led by our Global Associate Lissette Mateus Roa from Colombia. Lissette will be training our partners in Uganda to use the ESPERE methodology developed in Colombia to engage the local community in using schools as centers for reconciliation for former child soldiers in the region.

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Reconstructing Haiti: Presentation by Malya Villard

We are pleased to share this broadcast of Malya Villard-Appolon's lecture in Chicago on April 22, 2014 at Loyola University.  In this public lecture, Malya spoke about her advocacy work from the courtrooms and IDP camps in Haiti to venues around the world including the UN Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. State Department and the IAHRC. Malya was awarded the 2012 CNN Hero of the Year for her work as co-founder of KOFAVIV (Commission of Women Victims for Victims).  

KOFAVIV is a Haitian grassroots organization that provides social and legal support in an effort to combat sexual violence against women and girls. Based on our partnership with KOFAVIV to fight gender-based violence in Port au Prince after the earthquake, we know first-hand the power and effectiveness of Malya and her team in Haiti.