WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–March 24, 2010 — Three quarters of the 1.3 million homeless Haitians in the quake zone have received emergency shelter materials since the January 12 earthquake, with shelter materials being distributed at a rate of 120,000 people a week.
The so-called shelter cluster, which consists of humanitarian organizations working on shelter in Haiti and is coordinated by the Red Cross, is on course to reach 100 percent coverage by May 1st – the original target date and the start of the peak month of the Haitian rainy season.
The number of people reached by what is now a total of more than 50 agencies – including the Red Cross –distributing shelter-relief materials through shelter cluster coordination is now 976,775 – just past the 75 percent mark.
“In the past eight weeks, the shelter cluster has been reaching more than 120,000 people a week on average,” said Gregg McDonald, shelter coordination team leader.
Distribution of shelter relief including tents, tarps and toolkits did not begin in Haiti until after the search and rescue phase was over.
The pace of providing shelter relief in Haiti is faster than it was following other recent major international disasters.
After Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, where the estimated total in need of shelter relief was 2.4 million people, the 50 percent coverage mark was reached after 12 weeks, at an average of just over 100,000 people a week, according to new data compiled by the shelter cluster.
While after the Padang earthquake in Indonesia last year, shelter agencies reached an average of 75,000 people a week with emergency relief, including the search and rescue phase.
“The challenges in Haiti have been huge,” McDonald adds. “Loss of key government agencies, shortage of transport, rubble in the streets, security issues have forced aid organizations to band together to surmount these obstacles.
“Against that backdrop, this is a considerable achievement, and a reflection of the way agencies involved have pulled together.”
Emergency-shelter distribution is just one part of the drive to help quake-affected people survive the looming rainy season. Other measures being pursued as part of the wider disaster-preparedness effort in Haiti include:
- Structural assessment of houses that may be safe to return to;
- Relocation of displaced people to safe sites away from flood zones;
- Clearance of municipal drains in Port-au-Prince; and
- Installation of improved drainage and flood-resistant sanitation in existing camps.
“It’s exactly because the rainy season is fast approaching that agencies continue to deliver emergency shelter as quickly as possible,” said McDonald. “We’re determined to get to full coverage before May 1st.”
“The rains are going to have a massive impact, and things are going to get worse before they get better.”
“Everyone involved in this response needs to do their utmost to make sure people are as prepared as they can be for what is going to be a very tough rainy season.”
Several agencies working with the shelter cluster, including the Red Cross, have now developed prototype “transitional” houses – mainly small, wood-frame structures that can be built cheaply and easily, and potentially in large numbers.
The Haitian government has not yet made any land available for building, but talks to clear the way for humanitarian construction on the small number of possible sites that have been identified are still going on.
The United Nations and the U.S. military have said that 250,000 Haitians out of the estimated 1.3 million left homeless by the quake are camped in parts of Port-au-Prince that are vulnerable to floods when the rains begin in earnest in a couple of weeks.
Of these, some are in extremely hazardous locations, including river beds, valley bottoms and on unstable slopes.