accessibility & help

Race to give shelter to Haiti’s homeless reaches halfway

12 March 2010

Woman standing by tarpaulin shelterTwo months after the earthquake that devastated southern Haiti and left an estimated 1.3 million people homeless, humanitarian agencies distributing emergency shelter materials have reached more than 650,000 people – the halfway mark.

Tens of thousands of tarpaulins, tents, ropes, timber and toolkits continue to pour into Haiti, helping to provide some shelter ahead of the rainy season, which peaks in May.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is co-ordinating shelter under the UN’s cluster system, which brings agencies together to respond in emergencies. “To have reached so many people so quickly, especially in the conditions we’ve all had to contend with, is an achievement that should not be underestimated,” said Gregg McDonald, who is leading the Haiti-based team of specialists co-ordinating the supply of shelter.

Huge needs in Haiti

“But despite this success, we’ve certainly not lost sight of the fact that we have many thousands more to reach. The needs are still huge,” Gregg continued. “We are all working as hard as we can to get shelter materials out to those in need as fast as possible.”

One of the camps the Red Cross is working in, called La Piste, is now home to more than 40,000 people. Red Cross workers are constructing latrines, organising garbage collections and disposal, clearing blocked drains and running hygiene promotion. They are also supplying the camp with water, running a healthcare clinic and distributing both food and emergency relief items, including shelter materials.

Andreanes Theodore lost her husband in the earthquake and now lives in La Piste with her children aged 2, 6, 7 and 8. She said: “We couldn’t sleep at night when it rained. We would be awake the whole night, just waiting for the sun to come up. Now the Red Cross has given us sheeting we slept well last night, even though it rained.”

Race against the rains

The arrival of aid in Haiti was hampered in the immediate aftermath of the quake by massive damage to the country’s infrastructure which saw the seaport closed, the airport clogged and roads blocked.

Agencies have reached more than 80,000 people a week since the quake on 12 January. It’s hoped that two-thirds of those the quake left without shelter will have been reached by 1 April, which is around the time the rainy season usually starts. The shelter cluster is on track to reach all 1.3 million people on or before its target date of 1 May.

Gregg said: “The Haitian government and the humanitarian community will also step up efforts to identify houses that are safe to return to, and offer support to people staying with friends and relatives.”

Read stories from survivors of the Haiti earthquake

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