Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Miracle Girl in Haiti Saved a Second Time

  • January 11, 2015

Joenne* was playing with her cousin and two older siblings on January 12, 2010, when a powerful earthquake sent their Port-au-Prince home crashing down on them. After five hours of digging through rubble, the desperate parents freed Joenne’s oldest sister. They could hear 3-year-old Joenne crying for help, but could not get to her. Days passed but the family kept up the hard work. Then, they heard a weak voice call out, “Daddy, don’t hit too hard, I'm here, under where you're hitting.”

It was a miracle: Though her sister, aunt and cousin had been killed, little Joenne had survived. After being trapped for nearly four days without food or water, her crushed foot soon became infected and needed amputation, along with her lower leg. Joenne spent two months recovering from the surgery in an AmeriCares-supported health facility an hour outside Port-au-Prince. Afterward the family resettled in a rural area, where, with other earthquake survivors, they formed a community dubbed Miracle Village.

Three years later, Joenne’s young life was threatened again when a deadly cholera epidemic swept through Haiti. After playing outside on a rainy day, Joenne began vomiting and suffering from severe diarrhea – she quickly became dehydrated and unresponsive. Health workers remember Joenne arriving at the Love a Child field hospital cradled in her father’s arms limp as a “rag doll.” They gave her IV fluids donated by AmeriCares and within minutes, the little girl began to move and speak – infused with new life.

Today, Joenne is a shy but energetic third grader. She plays with friends, helps her mother with household chores and dreams of one day becoming a doctor to save other children. The hard work of two miracles and the long road to becoming a doctor does not seem too daunting for this resilient 8-year-old: a face of hope for Haiti.

Joenne is just one of thousands of children and adults helped by the AmeriCares earthquake response and recovery program over the past five years.

AmeriCares in Haiti

AmeriCares emergency response began immediately: Within 48 hours of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, AmeriCares relief workers were in Haiti, coordinating aid deliveries for survivors, and the first airlift arrived within days, carrying $6 million in lifesaving medicines. AmeriCares opened an office and warehouse in Port-au-Prince to support the local hospitals and foreign medical volunteers treating survivors.

In the five years since the disaster, AmeriCares has delivered 1,800 aid shipments including enough medicine to fill 3.5 million prescriptions for patients suffering from pain, trauma, malnutrition, diarrheal disease and debilitating health conditions. For the cholera epidemic alone, AmeriCares provided $12.5 million in medicines, supplies and project support, including 350,000 bags of IV fluids like those that saved Joenne. In all, AmeriCares has provided more than $86 million in aid to help Haiti build back stronger after the devastating earthquake.

AmeriCares has supported 160 partner organizations assisting the recovery, including more than 80 local Haitian organizations working to heal the country. The program focuses on improving access to health care, controlling disease outbreaks, improving maternal and child health and preparing the health system to withstand future emergencies.

“Our work has improved health care services in all 10 departments in Haiti, building an improved, more resilient health system,” said AmeriCares Haiti Country Director Julie Hard. “We are committed to Haiti and will continue working to ensure the nation is prepared to withstand the next emergency.”

*Child’s name has been changed