Rubble and land-shortages hamper rebuilding in Haiti

by
15 July 2010

by Ed Beavan

IT WAS exactly six months on Mon­day since Haiti was hit by the massive earthquake that killed about 230,000 people. It left an estimated 1.5 million people living in tents.

Despite large amounts of aid flowing into the country, conditions remain “extremely harsh”, Christian Aid said this week. The charity is currently supervising a relief budget of more than £10 million.

Its manager for Haiti, Prospery Raymond, said that the main priority was to build safe accommodation for those left homeless, but the re-building process was being hampered by the landowners’ lack of insurance and documentation. This meant that they cannot prove they own the land they wish to rebuild on.

He said that many of the tents that people were living in were “designed for brief summer holidays” rather than as medium- or long-term shelters, and many were starting to decay.

“The main challenge now is finding land on which to rebuild, in what is in many parts a very cramped urban area.” He called for the Church and state, which own much of the prime land in Haiti, to make it available for rebuilding.

Although it might seem that little had been achieved in the capital, Port-au-Prince, the fact that there has been no famine or significant out­break of disease was “a victory that should be celebrated”, Mr Raymond said.

Christian Aid’s media officer for the Caribbean, Sarah Wilson, has just returned from Haiti. She said that about six bodies a day were still arriving at the Grand Cimetière in Port-au-Prince, but were now being treated in a more dignified manner than in the aftermath of the earth­quake, when bodies were left in piles on the streets.

She quoted the President of Haiti, René Préval, as saying that “it would take 1000 lorries 1000 days to clear all the rubble from the earthquake.”

The Disasters Emergency Com­mit­tee announced last week that it has raised a total of £101 million for Haiti, and has assisted 1.2 million people there so far. Its chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said, however, that the situation was the biggest challenge he had faced in 35 years of human­itarian work. Providing shelter in Port-au-Prince, “a city choked with millions of tons of rubble, is proving enormously difficult”.

The Disasters Emergency Com­mit­tee announced last week that it has raised a total of £101 million for Haiti, and has assisted 1.2 million people there so far. Its chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said, however, that the situation was the biggest challenge he had faced in 35 years of human­itarian work. Providing shelter in Port-au-Prince, “a city choked with millions of tons of rubble, is proving enormously difficult”.

The charity CBM (formerly Chris­tian Blind Mission), which works with children with disabilities, has set up ten centres in Port-au-Prince since the earthquake. Here, children have access to a safe place, play, therapy, and follow-up care. The charity says the centres have helped to bring a sense of normality to their lives.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, urged world leaders not to forget the needs of the people of Haiti, after a visit there last month, as part of an ecumenical dele­gation of church leaders. In an open letter to governments and Churches, he said it was important for the reconstruction process to be account­able to the people of Haiti, and for churches around the world to be united in “solidarity and prayer” for the Caribbean nation.

He visited a number of projects directed by the ACT Alliance of church-affiliated aid agencies, and said he left the country with “great respect for the resilience and the faith of the Haitian people and Churches”.

Dr Tveit also met Haitian poli­ticians and church officials, and visited damaged churches, including the Roman Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince.

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