Port-au-Prince/Geneva–(ENEWSPF)–9 April 2010. Three months after the Haiti earthquake on January 12, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is increasing its efforts to assist the extremely vulnerable populations during the rainy season, while continuing to provide emergency relief.
“While the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has managed to provide shelter materials such as tarpaulins, tents and toolkits to more than 400,000 people, we know that not all temporary emergency shelters will withstand sustained heavy rains or tropical storms,” says Iain Logan, Head of Operation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Haiti.
Two initiatives long under discussion by the Haitian authorities and donor- and humanitarian agencies can significantly help to improve the situation. Most important would be for as many families as possible to return to those houses that have been marked safe for habitation by professional engineers.
“This action would significantly bring down the numbers of people living in camps and reduce congestion,” says Logan. “This alone would allow our critical water-, sanitation-, and health programs to have much more effect.”
The second initiative is to provide new settlement sites that would have reasonable access to central services such as education, employment and transportation. Currently, humanitarian organizations are planning to build 122,000 robust and durable shelters, of which the Red Cross Red Crescent will construct up to 50,000. These shelters could withstand Haiti’s challenging climate for at least three to five years.
Disaster preparedness – a race against the clock
At the same time that the construction of shelters goes ahead, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is investing 14 million Swiss francs (13 million US dollars or 10 million euro) in disaster preparedness measures to better protect the population from the rainy and hurricane season, particularly those displaced by the earthquake. The money will be used to pre-position additional emergency relief items and to involve 300,000 people in disaster preparedness activities.
“Working with the Haiti National Red Cross Society we have a strong focus on community based disaster preparedness programming. This helps us to mitigate the risk of epidemics due to the challenging conditions in the settlements, and run activities which enable the communities to deal with the rains and the hurricanes,” Logan explains.
In parallel to the preparations for the rainy and hurricane season, relief operations continue three months after the powerful earthquake that left over 213.000 people dead and at least 1.3 million homeless.
Collectively, more than 50 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have raised over 730 million Swiss francs (more than 700 million US dollars or 518 million euro) for earthquake relief, recovery and reconstruction. In the first three months more than 110 million Swiss francs (more than 100 million US dollars or close to 70 million euro) were spent on emergency relief activities.
The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, along with other humanitarian organizations, is on target to achieve the initial overall aim to reach 1.3 million people with emergency shelter materials by May 1, the original target date. To date 90 per cent – around 1.2 million people – have received some form of shelter assistance.
“While this is a significant achievement we cannot be complacent,” explains Logan. “We are sensitive to and aware that there are many thousands in the less accessible locations of the impacted area who have yet to receive assistance due to the sheer enormity of the disaster.”
The scope and consequences of this disaster is so far reaching that the Red Cross Red Crescent accepts its responsibility to retain an increased humanitarian readiness for many years. “The humanitarian needs will remain a priority as the country moves towards rehabilitation and reconstruction,” says Logan.