Update on Haiti

Haiti continues pretty much as it has been the last few months.  Here is some info that I have received from my friend who lives and works in PAP. The camps are even fuller than before as people are either returning to PAP or choosing the camps over their homes because of some perceived benefits they might receive.

Tent Camps

There are presently 1.6 million displaced persons scattered in 1,342 camp sites in the earthquake affected areas of Haïti.  In Port-au-Prince, there are about 1,000 of the sites.  Fifty-four of the 1,342 sites have more than 1,000 households and these account for 29% of the displaced people.   The commune (like a county) of Delmas, which is very close to the heart of downtown Port au Prince, has the highest concentration of displaced persons.  There are 200 camps, 11 of which accommodate more than 1,000 families; and there is a total of 315,500 homeless persons (19% of all displaced persons) in the camps.

Water and hygiene facilities

The WASH teams have been working overtime to help meet these needs; and despite less than required levels of water and hygiene facilities in the camps, no waterborne infections have been reported–truly God’s grace and a testimony to how carefully the Haitian people work at managing these scarce resources.  But the teams believe that they should be able to add enough latrines to provide 1 for every 100 persons by October, a very decent figure.  Nonetheless, the teams caution that although the WASH surveillance may be able to be suspended in a few months in the rural areas, it will need to continue for another year or two within PAP because of the scarcity of resources.

Insecurity and personal safety

One of the most unpleasant part of the camps has been the insecurity.  A couple weeks ago the National Police teamed up with the UN troops (called MINUSTAH here) in an early morning raid on one of the large camps in the commune of Delmas.  About 30 persons believed to be thieves were apprehended, some were escaped prisoners from the national penitentiary whose walls were damaged in the earthquake.

Another part of the insecurity relates to teens and young women who are being forced into sexual relationships. With many family members either dead or dispersed, these young people are particularly vulnerable.  Security has increased in the camps, but it is still a concern.

Pregnancy and STIs

Along with the concern about personal safety is a  very sharp rise in the number of pregnancies.  This has not yet been measured, but we have all noticed the large number of young women walking about in the earlier stages of pregnancy.  Of course, if one is vulnerable to pregnancy, there is also a significant risk for sexually transmitted infection, like HIV.  In fact, health providers in some of the camps have noted a higher than national average prevalence among the camp dwellers–though it is uncertain whether this is a cluster effect (a higher number of infected persons who just happen to be living in the same camp) or a real increase in prevalence.

Temporary homes

Some of the tents and tarps have been damaged by the large and frequent rains we’ve been having and will need replaced. As I mentioned in the last update, people are starting to add more permanent fixtures to their very temporary shelters, like tin doors, wood framing, and the like.  Roughly about 2,500 temporary homes (more like a regular home and built to last at least 3 years) have been constructed; but these are mostly in the more rural areas.

Debris

The Shelter Cluster estimates that all in all there is about 19 million m3 of debris to remove. —1 m3 is basically the size of a pallet, so that much debris would fill 19,000 very large warehouses. All in all, about 125,000 temporary homes are expected to be constructed by this time next year, the huge majority in the metropolitan PAP area.

Food

Although food rations are no longer being distributed, there is good news on the horizon!  The spring harvest looks like it will be rather productive, which will both increase the availability of food staples as well as decrease the price.  This is very heartening because prices continue to be well above pre-earthquake level— roughly 25 – 35 % more, depending on where you live.

Jobs

Another brighter star on the horizon.  The food for work programs are not only helping to clear the rubble, clean out canals to avoid lowland flooding and repair rural roads, these people (over 100,000) are receiving a reasonable wage with which to help support their families.  The need for this kind of work will be there for quite some time in the future— along with labour for reconstruction; and these should help to re-establish some families.

But the financial losses have been great here.  One thing that helps Haitian people to get by on such limited income is that they do not need to pay great sums for living quarters.  But modest sized homes that used to cost perhaps $2,500 per year to rent are now going for $500/month–that is more than the average middle class Haitian person earns in a month!  Housing relief, and not just the temporary shelters, must be made a major priority in order to be able to stabilize the country.

Some subjects of prayer:

  1. For everyone’s personal safety, especially for the young and the vulnerable
  2. That food and housing will indeed begin to be affordable and at levels to meet everyone’s need
  3. That reconstruction can proceed well:
    1. Settling of the land ownership issues
    2. No longer be hindered by such high prices.  Some materials are up about 50% over pre-earthquake prices, even though there is no shortage
  4. That the rains and floods will not do any more damage

Thank you for your continued interest in what is going on in Haiti and in helping the plight of these desperately needy people.

Blessings.

~Karen