By Kristen & Wawa Chege of the Mennonite Central Committee
As rains fell for the fourth day in a row on Friday, Haitians living in tent camps were left with few options but to wait out the storm under the patches of tarping that constitute their homes. Jackson Doliscar, Community Mobilizer for Fòs Refleksyon ak Aksyon sou Koze Kay (FRAKKA), visited several of these tent camps to assess the damage and try to bolster spirits. As he went, he encouraged people to mobilize and demand that the Haitian government develop a plan for a permanent solution to their housing needs.
Hurricane Sandy brought with her 20 inches of rain: whole camps flooded as streams emerged between tents, shelters fell under the weight of sitting water, dirt floors turned to mud, and precious possessions were ruined. Efforts to raise mattresses off the ground using cinder blocks, and string clothes from wires inside their tent made little difference as the rain poured in through holes in the tent, or seeped in below the walls. As one man succinctly put it, “everything is wet”.
Denold Ganti the camp coordinator at Trazeliy Camp in Tabarre said that he had called several aid agencies and the government for help, but they had yet to see any assistance. Doliscar delivered a rather sobering message to a group of young men who were frustrated at the lack of action by aid agencies: “The NGOs are already leaving; when they’re all gone who will be responsible? We must mobilize!”
It has been three years since the earthquake of January 2010 hit Haiti, and 370,000 continue to live in tent camps trying to put off the day when their structures will no longer be standing. Since 2010, several hurricanes and tropical storms have hit these camps, accelerating the imminent destruction of these temporary structures. The total impact of this storm has yet to be seen, but already 52 people have been reported dead as a direct result. The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is but a small glimpse of the everyday struggles that these Internally Displaced People have encountered.
“It can be done,” said Jean Louis Elie Joseph, Camp Coordinator for KOREVI-E, Acra, Adoquin, referring to a social housing plan. “It takes thorough planning and a lot of organizing, but this would mean the establishment of a centralized body in the government charged with the responsibility of coordinating affordable housing.” But, plans such as this require land, monetary resources, legal documentation, and leadership, something that only the Haitian government can provide. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, FRAKKA is highlighting the urgency of the establishment of a housing ministry in the Haitian government.
You can stand in solidarity with the displaced people that are calling for affordable, permanent housing. Join more than 2,000 people around the world and sign this petition today asking the Haitian government and its international donors to prioritize housing.
Tents damaged and flooded in Camp Trazily: