Three years after the catastrophic earthquake that killed 217,300 people and left 2.1 million homeless, the Red Cross is still working to move the many thousands of those affected out of temporary camps into permanent homes.
Alexandre Claudon, Red Cross in Haiti, said three years living under tarpaulin in insecure camps was too long, but the Red Cross was addressing it as the highest priority. “The Haiti earthquake was one of the most complex emergencies we have dealt with in a long time,” he said. “People may be asking why so many remain homeless, but basic issues such as determining who owns the land upon which we can build and how unemployed people can pay their rent, continue to seriously complicate the rebuilding process.”
Since the earthquake on January 10, 2010, the number of people living in camps has fallen from an estimated 1.5 million to around 350,000. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has helped around 40,000 families (approximately 200,000 people) find safer places to live, representing more than a third of those re-homed by all aid agencies.
Of those 40,000 families, more than 10,000 (approximately 50,000 people) have benefited from an innovative relocation programme led by the Red Cross which helps people to find safer places to live within the existing rental stock.
Claudon said: “The dangers that living in a camp exposes people to – the security risks, the vulnerability to natural disasters, and not least the increased risk of cholera and other diseases – means that, for the Red Cross, helping people into safer accommodation is right at the top of our list.
“During the emergency phase of the response to this earthquake, camps were a short-term necessity for people with nowhere to live. We are now well past that stage and we continue to face immense challenges three years later.”
As well as rental support, the programme also includes livelihoods grants and training options that help families secure an income, and enable them to continue paying their rents independently.
Tackling the issue from the housing-supply end, the Red Cross is also helping regenerate neighbourhoods in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, with improved construction, sanitation and lighting, among other measures, helping provide more and safer housing.
“We are committed to working with the government and other agencies to address this problem as a matter of urgency,” said Claudon.
“The government has identified a further 115 priority ‘at risk’ camps and, as an agency already at the forefront of solving this issue, there is no question that we will play our part in the weeks and months to come.”
Photo: Port au Prince, Haiti | In the distrcit Delma 19. The Red Cross provides water and sanitation services to the residents. J.GOLDSTEIN , Red Cross