By Lynette Nyman
Located down a dusty side street in Port-au-Prince, “Camp Ravine Pintade” has been named after its surroundings. It has been home for more than 400 families since the earthquake struck on 12 January.
Estagene Guerrier, 86, is among those sleeping outside on mattresses or on the bare ground because they are afraid that walls may fall down on them. Estagene’s house has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
She says: “I’m not feeling well. My head hurts and my legs ache. I cannot sleep and I need to get my house fixed.”
On rainy nights nobody sleeps as water leaks through their shelters and soaks any blankets and sheets they may have. Some, like Jeanne Delly, 64, are unable to stand while they wait for the rains to end. Jeanne was trapped for six hours under her collapsed house; she has a broken arm and injured leg, and she is painfully thin.
“I feel like I have stopped living,” says Jeanne. “I am suffering and I have no one.”
Jeanne’s daughter and three grandchildren were killed. Her son survived but, like many who survived the quake, she feels completely alone.
In Port-au-Prince, around 600,000 people are living in makeshift camps, which are growing in number and size as many who fled the city return home. The earthquake struck Haiti three months ago and displaced over 1.3 million people.
This is only the beginning
Even after the distribution of thousands of tents, tarpaulins and other emergency relief supplies, including millions of gallons of water and tonnes of food, people are still in desperate need in Port-au-Prince and nearby towns such as Leogane and Petit-Goave.
Iain Logan, head of relief operations in Haiti for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), says: “Our work has only just begun here. We’ve climbed to the top of a hill only to see the mountain looming ahead.”
The IFRC’s response in Haiti is its largest ever and the first in which most of the affected people live in a densely populated city. As well as emergency shelter, the Red Cross Red Crescent has provided sanitation, health care, vaccinations, family reunification services, and psycho-social support to around 400,000 people.
“We’ve done this in spite of extremely difficult and complicated logistics and coordination challenges,” says Logan.
The success is due in large part to the cooperation between the Haitian National Red Cross Society and partner National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world. Hundreds of Haitian Red Cross leaders, staff and volunteers, who are trusted and accepted in their communities, have helped representatives from more than thirty National Societies bring essential aid to people in Haiti.
As the emergency phase continues for the next 12 months, the IFRC will continue to offer water, sanitation, health services, and relief supplies. Plans for the recovery phase include building transitional shelters, supporting livelihoods, pre-positioning disaster relief supplies, and providing training that will strengthen the Haitian Red Cross’s ability to respond to future emergencies.
We need more space
Ernso St. Louis, 27, lives on a rocky outcrop now called “Camp Neptune.” His pressed shirt shows the self-respect he has maintained in challenging living conditions. Like everyone else around him, he has about one square metre of personal space, and even that is likely to be taken away.
He says: “The camp where we are now is a private field and the owner can come and kick us out at anytime.”
Ernso has been working with the camp leadership committee to make life better for residents who have the basic necessities of shelter, water, and toilets. Now they would like the Haitian government to help remove the rubble, an action that would give people hope for the future.
“Once they are shown that there are possibilities, then they can start building houses by themselves,” says Ernso. “The sooner everybody can return to where they were before the earthquake, the better.”
Transitional housing will get some people out from under tents and tarpaulins. The Red Cross Red Crescent and its shelter relief partners will be putting up 120,000 transitional structures strong enough to last several years while reconstruction goes ahead. And yet this major recovery response is only a temporary solution for fixing Port-au-Prince, a city that is central to the economic and cultural well-being of Haiti.
“Port-au-Prince is a blueprint for the rest of the nation,” says Logan. “If we do a good job here, then we might make the rest of Haiti a better place.”
(International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC))
- Haiti, three months after the earthquake: “We are going in the right direction”
- Haiti: Earthquake Emergency appeal no. MDRHT008 Operations update no. 16
- Haiti – the enormous tasks ahead
- Haiti: Earthquake Emergency appeal no. MDRHT008 Operations update no. 14
- Haiti: Floods DREF Operation No. MDRHT006 Operation Final Report