IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Economic Rights (OSRESCER) expressed their solidarity with the Haitian people in the aftermath of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that took place on the morning of August 14. The IACHR and the OSRESCER urged the State and the international community to adopt a comprehensive, immediate, effective, human rights-based humanitarian response, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable sectors of the population.
According to information from the United States Geological Survey, the epicenter of the earthquake was about 125 km west of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, and has allegedly affected the cities in the South Department most directly. According to public information, the earthquake has allegedly caused high levels of material damage, including to public buildings, and at least 300 people have been reported dead, 2000 injured, and hundreds missing. Likewise, authorities have warned the population of the possibility of after-shocks. According to press reports, the United States has already instructed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide assistance, and the Prime Minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, has said that the country will declare a state of emergency.
In this context of increased risk of human rights violations, the IACHR and the OSRESCER praised the work of the people, organizations, and services that are involved in rescuing and assisting those affected by the earthquake. They are also calling on the Haitian State to provide the necessary rescue and assistance services, with the support of the international community, and to guarantee access to humanitarian assistance and the protection of human rights, and to implement immediate emergency measures to guarantee shelter, the rights to housing for the affected population, and the re-establishment of essential services. As part of this response, the IACHR and the OSRESCER urged the State and the international community to coordinate with one another to ensure a timely, effective, comprehensive, rights-based humanitarian response at all stages in the process of this.
The IACHR and the OSRESCER noted that this protection challenge is part of a broader context of challenges to the comprehensive protection of human rights, which demands structural responses and preventive measures. On this point, they emphasized that according to the OAS Charter, Member States are obliged to seek collective solutions to serious or urgent problems that may arise in situations such as this natural disaster, which are compounded by the serious context of structural poverty, the Covid-19 pandemic, violence, and the institutional crisis that Haiti is experiencing. Furthermore, in the Social Charter of the Americas, States committed to improving regional cooperation and strengthening their national technical and institutional capacity for preventing, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters, along with building resilience, reducing risks, mitigating impacts, and conducting evaluations. The IACHR noted the need for specific measures to mitigate the disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable sectors of the population, which require intersectional, differentiated approaches to protection.
The IACHR and the OSRESCER called for special consideration to be given to the context of multidimensional poverty in Haiti, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for responses to essential needs to be prioritized, such as healthcare, drinking water, sanitation, food, and housing for the population experiencing the greatest poverty and vulnerability. Likewise, healthcare workers and others carrying out essential work should have access to increased protection measures that respect biosecurity protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, the IACHR also noted that it will continue to provide comprehensive monitoring of the human rights situation and the challenges to protecting these via its Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit (SACROI).