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In Haiti, a Young Survivor of Two Major Earthquakes Isn't Giving Up
Now 15, Peterson has no memory of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that rocked western Haiti on January 12, 2010, killing more than 220,000 people. The quake remains one of the deadliest natural disasters on record.
His family's three-story house collapsed, burying 4-year-old Peterson and his younger brother alive inside. After three days, the little boys were pulled from the wreckage. Peterson's arm was mangled and had to be amputated at the elbow. Since then, he has lived mostly with his godmother, Rosemurlaine, in southwestern Haiti.
Buried alive in Haiti's 2010 earthquake, Peterson and his little brother were pulled from the wreckage after three days
Twelve years later, the trauma lingers. "Because of the earthquakes, there are places he's afraid of," says Rosemurlaine.
"I've just always been like this growing up," says Peterson. "I noticed most people have two arms, but I don't. It made me cry sometimes. It's better that I don't remember a thing."
"I saw many houses destroyed. People had broken limbs. I thought about how the same thing happened to me." — Peterson, 15, after Haiti's 2021 quake
On August 14, 2021, Peterson's life was turned upside-down for a second time by another powerful earthquake along the same fault lines, this time in Haiti's southwest. "I saw many houses destroyed," he says. "People had broken limbs. I thought about how the same thing happened to me."
In the days and weeks after the magnitude 7.2 quake, UNICEF rushed critical emergency supplies and humanitarian assistance to children and families in need. UNICEF works with partners in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, to make sure children get the nutrition, health care, education and protection they need to survive and thrive. “Every child who went through this earthquake requires psychosocial support, even if they haven’t been physically injured,” says Pierre Jean Stenio, chief of the UNICEF Les Cayes field office.
A UNICEF-supported youth center in Les Cayes provides care and support for children affected by the 2021 quake
An aunt connected Peterson with UNICEF's local partner IDEJEN, which provides counseling, nutritious meals and skills training to children affected by the earthquake. The IDEJEN center is a vital source of support and protection for children when they need it most.
“There, we learn about body image, have lessons, play, and they give us meals,” Peterson explains. “I like to play games, use the phone. I’m not into football or sports, because I’m afraid of falling. I like to draw and do other things.”
Sitting in a quiet spot outside the center with a counselor, Peterson shares his hopes for the future. "I'm happy living here in Les Cayes," he says. "My dream is to be an actor. With hard work, I can make that dream come true."
UNICEF is helping thousands of children in Haiti recover from trauma and rebuild their lives. Please donate to Haiti relief.
Top photo: Fifteen-year-old Peterson lost an arm in Haiti's 2010 earthquake. Eleven years later, he lived through a second major quake. At a UNICEF-supported IDEJEN center in Les Cayes, he and other children affected by the August 14, 2021 quake receive counseling, nutritious meals and skills training to help them recover from the trauma and prepare for a healthy future. © UNICEF Video edited by Tong Su for UNICEF USA.