Haiti: Shelter - Much more than 'one tent, one family'
By Morten Tonnessen-Kroken, IFRC
As earthquake survivors struggle in makeshift camps, providing shelter is top priority. "I fear it will begin to rain. My house collapsed, and I have nothing left," says Evelyn Joseph, a resident of a make shift camp in Carrefour outside of Port-au-Prince.
Evelyn's frustrations are the same as everyone's: She wants to know what support she will receive to create some kind of a temporary household in the rubble. Today she will get at least some of it.
A big, white truck has just arrived here at camp Frere Salesienne. The camp leader moves people away from the back doors. Evelyn approaches him. "What is in that big truck?"
The truck is loaded with massive rolls of tarpaulin - each one measuring 32 x 2 metres. "If heavy rain hits now it will make it even harder for these people to cope," says Katharine Ehrman of the German Red Cross.
"Therefore we are providing enough tarpaulin to build a roof over the entire camp. This way, the people living here can retain whatever privacy they can get in their provisional shelters, and at same time stay dry when the next rains come."
1 million people need shelter
It is estimated that about 1 million Haitians are in immediate need of shelter. According to the government, more than 235,000 have moved to rural areas, many of them staying with relatives and friends.
"In search for a place to stay, people will look for whatever solution they can find, either by moving to other areas, finding the nearest makeshift camp, or staying close to their homes and neighbourhoods," explains Frederic Blas, the IFRC's shelter coordinator in Haiti.
"It is important to think that while we need to act immediately, to improve the living conditions of the affected population, we also need to find ways to support people moving to other regions of their choice. This will encourage those who can, to leave the high density urban camps, which is currently our major source of concern", he underlines.
Close to home
In Port-au-Prince tens of thousands of people are living in more than 500 makeshift camps. Still more are living outside of their homes, too frightened to move indoors, but reluctant to leave their neighbourhood.
"Though people will not sleep inside their damaged house, but will nevertheless go inside to cook and to store their belongings. People want to stay close to their homes and in their neighbourhoods, where they can get help from one another and share what little they have", Blas explains.