It has been six months since the impoverished nation of Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. While nearly two thirds of this island nation suffered little or no effects from the quake, the economic, political and population center of the nation was nearly leveled. The effects of the loss of life and the loss of infrastructure are still being felt today.
On January 12, 2010 Haiti was devastated by a massive earthquake. 230,000 people were killed an nearly 200,000 more injured. Over 1.2 million Haitians were displaced from their homes. A simpler illustration of the effects of the earthquake might be the resumption of international mail delivery to Haiti on May 3 after nearly four months.
The loss of buildings is extreme. Homes, hospitals, schools and other institutions are rubble or unsafe to occupy. The homeless are truly that, without anything but a blue tarp over their heads.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been working in Haiti for 19 years. Here is what they recently reported:
The earthquake destroyed 60 per cent of the existing health facilities and 10 per cent of medical staff were either killed or left the country. MSF had to relocate services to other facilities, build container hospitals, work under temporary shelters, and even set up an inflatable hospital. With over 3000 Haitian and international staff working in the country, MSF currently manages 19 health facilities and has over 1000 beds available at various locations. The organization has provided emergency medical care to more than 173,000 patients between January 12th and May 31st.
Caritas Haiti is the charitable arm of the Catholic Church in Haiti. They have been operating there for some 35 years. Here is a portion of their recent statement:
Providing shelter to the many people who lost their homes in the earthquake remains a major challenge. Over a million people still live in makeshift settlements and camps around the capital Port-au-Prince. More than 250,000 houses were destroyed. Over the last six months, Caritas provided emergency shelter or temporary homes to almost 160,000 people in Port-au-Prince and in rural areas. While things are starting to improve in the Léogâne area, the situation remains highly complex around Port-au-
Despite continuous clearing work, the rubble remaining in the streets considerably slows down reconstruction. The camps are so densely populated that no temporary houses can be built there. The problems are often worsened by unclear land ownership.
Only a few hundred temporary shelters have been built in the capital so far. Ahead of the rainy season starting in June, inhabitants from unsafe camps had to be relocated. While people in camps needed to be taken care of with emergency shelter materials such as tents and tarpaulins in the first months, heavy rains flooded these places and made distributions difficult.
Action Aid has been in Haiti for thirteen years. Its six month report includes this:
Jean-Claude Fignolé, ActionAid Haiti Country Director, said: “The Haitian people must be included in the reconstructions plans. At the moment the plan is more reflective of donor country interests and that is wrong. It is imperative that Haitian people be directly involved in their own recovery and lead the reconstruction process.”
The situation in Haiti remains extremely challenging. The hurricane season which began on June 1 and continues until November has been forecast this year to be particularly severe with a high probability of several tropical storms which could lead to mudslides, landslides, subsidence and flooding.
Most survivors are still living in tents as finding the land to build transitional shelters has been a huge challenge in the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince where land ownership is often disputed and documents have been lost or destroyed.
Jean-Claude Fignolé said: “It is urgent that solutions to the housing crisis are found and implemented before a real storm hits the country.
CHF International has been concentrating on getting Haitians back into their own neighborhoods by paying for rubble removal and constructing shelters.
As of July 2, CHF has completed 1,527 transitional shelters in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Cabaret, delivering housing to more than 7,600 Haitians. Most shelters are designed for the average Haitian family size of five. Through funding from USAID/OFDA, as well as support from corporations and the public, CHF is building an average of 200 shelters per week and plans to meet its goal of 6,000 shelters by October, which will offer safe housing to 30,000 people affected by the earthquake…
CHF has been able to build so many shelters because they have focused not on building camps, but on returning Haitians to their original communities and maintaining community cohesion. CHF demolishes damaged homes and builds shelters in their place. By keeping communities together, crime and violence are reduced and people are able to continue the job they had before. This is at the core of CHF’s vision of community-based development.
Outside of shelter development, CHF is employing Cash for Work teams comprised of Haitians to help demolish damaged structures and clear rubble from key roads, canals, public buildings, and schools. By July 2, CHF had removed 153,650 cubic meters of debris from nearly 300 sites of major roads, canals, and public buildings. This volume equates to two football fields stacked seven stories high in rubble. Since the earthquake, CHF has employed over 11,000 Haitians in rubble removal, for about 20 days each.
There is this story from GoUpstate.com:
Tents clustered in makeshift cities throughout Port-au-Prince are beginning to show wear. One “city” across the street from the Rescue Children Orphanage houses about 120 people in just 12 tents, Ramantanin said. He and others from Rescue Children dropped off pots, pans and food donations at the camp.
The Baptist Standard gives us this information:
The rain, sun and wind have taken their toll on the shelters. Edges of the plastic tarps hang in tatters. Many have begun leaking during storms.
“One interesting thing about the homes is that people have a phobia now. They don’t want to live under concrete roofs anymore,” Shehane said.
In addition to Haitians’ concerns about the safety and durability of new houses, new home building is made difficult by issues related to funding, land ownership and government restrictions.
“It’s always difficult to work through the bureaucracy here, and that’s true in many, many countries,” Brendle said. “First of all, because we have competing interests. We have the international aid community that wants to come in and have everything just flow in without any tariffs, without any bureaucracy, and that worked for a while after the disaster. But one of the major sources of income for this government is its tariffs from imports.”
The Christian Science Monitor did a story about the camps and forced evictions.
Of 1,241 refugee camps here, only 206 are officially recognized, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Only the official camps are monitored by NGOs, meaning that the majority lack protection. …
This past spring, the government Commission of Damage Assessment, Temporary Shelter, Demolition and Reconstruction reportedly identified several sites totaling 6 million square meters (some 1,500 acres) for relocating people to the perimeters of the capital. Lengthy negotiations to secure the land have yet to secure relocation options for the 2.1 million people left homeless from the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Now, forced evictions from refugee camps are on the rise, officials say. With landowners exasperated by the slow pace, some are taking matters into their own hands.