Haiti earthquake: displaced people urgently need shelter and sanitation

11-02-2010 Operational Update

One month after the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January, tens of thousands are still living in the open air. The race is on to get everyone under cover before the rainy season starts in just a few weeks.

©ICRC / J. Barry 
Port-au-Prince, Primature district. A family works out the best way to transport the rice, beans, tomato paste, salt and oil they have just collected from the ICRC. 
  Squalid living conditions

Thanks to the joint efforts of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, other aid agencies and the national authorities, people in the camps now have enough water for their basic needs. The ICRC is distributing water daily to 16,000 people at ten sites around Port-au-Prince.

Despite the efforts of many aid agencies, disposing of solid waste and rubbish in the camps remains a huge problem. As well as installing latrines, it is essential to maintain and clean them. " The worst thing is the smell from the waste water and sludge running past the front of our tent, " commented a grandmother sitting with her grandson on her knee in a camp in Delmas. The ICRC is financing the removal of rubbish in the areas of Place Boyer, Place St-Pierre, Delmas 60 and Primature.

Although local markets are busy, prices are high, making life just that bit harder. This was confirmed by women doing their washing in front of their tents. " The price of washing powder has gone up by about 20 per cent, " said Sherley Cangé, a teacher and mother of two children, one of whom broke both her legs in the earthquake.

On a positive note, people have started to return to their homes in recent days, at least during the day. Some are building small shelters, using anything that comes to hand for shade. Others are scouring the rubble for possessions they can salvage. " The problem is that we have nowhere to store the things we rescue from the ruins, " remarked Marie Rose. The mother of two has been keeping watch over her damaged property since the first day, in case of looters.


  Restoring family links

  The ICRC is working closely with Haitian Red Cross volunteers on tracing, first aid, water and sanitation and the distribution of food and other aid. The overall international Red Cross and Red Crescent relief effort is being coordinated and led by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. For more details on the overall Red Cross and Red Crescent response to the earthquake, please visit the Federation website.

  The ICRC and the Haitian National Red Cross Society are combining their efforts to trace missing persons and to keep separated families in touch with each other, providing a crucial lifeline for tens of thousands of Haitians. Haitian Red Cross volunteers run the tracing posts where people can register their names on the ICRC tracing website or make satellite phone calls. The database currently contains over 26,000 names, including those of 4,061 people in Haiti announcing that they are alive.  

Two new tracing posts were established this week in Port-au-Prince. In addition, tracing teams are setting up posts in Cap-Haitïen, Léogane and Gonaïves, so that people living in areas where communications are still precarious can use the ICRC's tracing services. More tracing posts should be opening in Grand-Goâve and Petit-Goâve in the coming days.


  Aid for detainees

Over the past week, delegates visited 700 detainees in nine places of detention in Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitïen. Repairs to the water supply and electricity system at Port-au-Prince’s badly damaged Civilian Prison began on 5 February and are continuing. Thirty workers have cleaned and disinfected four accommodation blocks, the prison kitchen and the dispensary. The prison is currently closed, but is due to reopen in the coming days.

The ICRC has donated a basic health kit and a dressing kit, comprising enough medical supplies to treat 1,000 patients for three months, to the Department of Prison Administration, for use in their health facilities in Cap Haitian, Fort Liberté and Port de Paix. The organization supplied another dressing kit to a local hospital for the prison in Grande Rivière du Nord in the north of the country.


  First-aid posts and water supplies

The ICRC is supervising 12 Haitian Red Cross first-aid posts in Port-au-Prince, and has re-launched a programme of hygiene promotion in collaboration with camp committee leaders. Two first-aid posts have been established in Petit-Goâve. In the north of the country, the ICRC this week delivered medicines to the provincial health authorities for use in local hospitals.

ICRC engineers, working in cooperation with the Port-au-Prince water board and the local water committee in the impoverished suburb of Cité Soleil, have begun repairing six broken water pipes.


  Food and household supplies

Over the past week, the ICRC has delivered food and household supplies to people living in camps in and around Port-au-Prince. Everyone is anxious for food, and on the whole the distributions have gone well. On 5 February, 730 families (3,900 people) living in an area next to the Prime Minister's office received enough rice, beans, cooking oil and other basic supplies to last them for two weeks.

The ICRC also delivered food to 700 families based at the compound of the Salesian Fathers. The same group will receive tarpaulins, buckets, kitchen sets and other household supplies in the coming days. On 10 February, the ICRC delivered food to the Salesian Nuns, enabling them to feed 1,500 displaced families currently living in their compound.

  For further information, please contact:
  Jessica Barry, ICRC Port-au-Prince, mobile: +509 3456 3392, satellite: +88 165 146 6175
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24


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