accessibility & help

Haiti: the emergency is not over in crowded camps

26 March 2010

A mother holding a child in a Red Cross hospital© InfoIn Haiti, the Red Cross is distributing life-saving emergency shelter items, such as tarpaulins and tools, as quickly as possible to give protection against the rains, due at the beginning of April.

La Piste camp in Port-au-Prince Haiti, initially home to around 10,000 people left homeless by the devastating earthquake on 12 January, has now swelled to 40,000 people due to the lack of space in other parts of the city. The provision of assistance in the camp has attracted additional families from the near-by shanty-town Cite Soleil.

The British Red Cross mass sanitation emergency response unit has been working in La Piste, constructing latrines, organising garbage collections and disposal, clearing blocked drains and running hygiene promotion.

Rainy season

The camp is also supplied with water by the French Red Cross, the Finnish Red Cross is running a healthcare clinic and there have been both food and emergency relief item distributions. It’s this provision of help and support which is making La Piste a more attractive place to live than Cite Soleil, which is reflective of the poor conditions that existed before the earthquake.

Already more latrines are needed, but the swell in numbers means space is now at a premium. And the needs have become even more urgent with the early arrival of regular rains.

For many, tarpaulins are offering some protection but more durable solutions are needed to withstand the brunt of the full rainy season. The Red Cross has started distributing timber frames and metal sheeting so people can construct better protection for themselves.

Water and sanitation

Jean Yveo, who is living in La Piste, is a member of the camp committee and has been working with the British Red Cross to help organise sanitation in the camp. “It’s really hard for us when it rains. People get wet and the ground gets flooded and that makes it easier to spread disease. The only option we have is plastic sheeting as the camp is so full now. People are less scared now that they have some plastic sheeting.”

As well as organising teams to build latrines, Jean Yveo is helping the British Red Cross recruit around 40 garbage collectors at the camp. These garbage collectors receive a weekly salary in return for collecting all the rubbish strewn about La Piste, which is taken away by a dumper truck hired by the Red Cross. As a result the camp is markedly cleaner, reducing the numbers of rats and flies, which carry disease. It’s also a way for people to earn a wage to pay for food for their families and start to rebuild their lives.

Much more still needs to be done at La Piste. People need private places to wash and more latrines will need to be built. The British Red Cross sanitation team will continue to work in La Piste for up to four months.

Read stories from survivors of the earthquake

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