Point of Beginning

HAITI: Looking to the hurricane season

January 26, 2010
Sites may have been chosen, mayors notified, NGOs lined up, but what is still missing to prepare temporary tent communities in disaster-torn Haiti is heavy equipment and land surveyors.

Irinnews.org: PORT-AU-PRINCE, 26 January 2010 (IRIN) - The Haitian government estimates at least 500,000 need shelter after the 12 January earthquake devastated the city, but the challenge is to find options that will get people through the upcoming hurricane season, which typically starts in May, said Jean Phillippe Antolin, with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is coordinating UN efforts to provide shelter.  

The government has identified at least 30 sites to turn into temporary tent communities in Port-au-Prince, most in areas where people are already informally camped out, but longer-term solutions are required.

Antolin told IRIN the numbers needing shelter outstrip current resources - even for temporary tenting. “We cannot come up with tents for up to 700,000 people - we simply do not have them at hand.” He added that even where available, a tent-based community approach would be at best good for the next three months.

In a working draft of a shelter strategy for earthquake victims, the UN has proposed alternatives. They include providing support to host families to take in those made homeless, as was done after last year’s hurricanes; providing materials to improve safety and comfort in areas where people have gathered; assessing which houses are safe for reoccupation; and as a last resort, to build new settlements, which IOM’s Antolin said would be the most complicated option.

“Unless there is already donor-backed construction under way, this option is the least feasible,” Antolin told IRIN.

The government is, however, evaluating how many people can be relocated to an Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)-financed construction in the Croix-de-Bouquets neighbourhood. Sites may have been chosen, mayors notified, NGOs lined up, but what is still missing to prepare temporary tent communities is heavy equipment and land surveyors, according to IOM.

Antolin told IRIN the first step to improving living conditions for those made homeless is to assess the safety of their living spaces, dig drainage and make sure the sites comply with government regulations. “To do that, we need engineers to assess the land and heavy equipment to prepare the space. We do not have either.”

“Without those two, we cannot even start worrying about the shortage of tents because we will not have anywhere to place those tents.”

He said discussions were under way with the US army’s corps of engineers. ... To read the rest of the story, click to www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=87875.