Housing repair support for 340 families in Leogane

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Close to two years after the deadly 12 January 2010 earthquake that hardly hit the city of Léogâne, hundreds of families still live in tents and insalubrious spaces. ACTED has provided housing assistance to 340 vulnerable families affected by the earthquake in order to reestablish safe living conditions for them

“We were 7 under a tent, and I could not take it anymore”. The testimony of Lormil Marie is still to frequent to be already a few weeks ahead of the second anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. According to the last Displacement Tracking Matrix (IOM)/ Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster, November 2011) 519,164 individuals remain in 758 identified IDP sites across the earthquake affected area, from which the city of Léogâne was at the epicenter.

Constrained by many factors, notably the lack of financial and material resources of displaced families to repair their homes, and a still present psychological trauma, the process of return and recovery of displaced populations is still under way almost two years after the earthquake.

In order to encourage the return process of displaced families and to help them to restore their normal lives, ensuring them safe living conditions is pivotal. ACTED continues engaged in this reconstruction effort, as the recently finished project “Contributing to the return of earthquake-affected populations in Haiti through support to the Safer Shelter Strategy in Léogane”. This project, funded by DFID, had the objective to enable the restoration of safe living conditions for displaced populations returning to their homes in earthquake-affected areas. Instead of aiming at a full coverage of the affected population, ACTED has provided support to most vulnerable households who could not afford the repairing work of their houses and who were living in unsafe conditions, relying on a strict beneficiary selection process.

The project was developed in two phases: First, between May and December 2010, supporting the initiative of the Ministry of Public Works, Transportation and Communication (MTPTC), ACTED’s engineers undertook more than 16,000 Structural Damage Assessments (SDA). Through the SDAs, ACTED teams categorized buildings according to the MTPTC standards depending on their structural damage: green, yellow and red. A green house is considered safe even if some damage may be visible, a yellow house has been damaged but which is possible to repair, and a red house is considered unsafe and unsuitable for habitation. Such exercise, the only one officially undertaken on behalf of the MTPTC outside the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, have proved key not only in facilitating the return of displaced populations to houses marked as “green” but also in assisting the humanitarian community in determining the actual needs in terms of transitional shelters as well as of house-repair assistance.

Secondly, building on this expertise and community footprint ACTED has provided housing repair support to yellow houses’ inhabitants, in order to provide a safer shelter for the earthquake-affected communities. A team of 7 engineers and of 40 senior masons repaired and reinforced 266 buildings, therefore offering housing repair support to a total of 340 vulnerable households. The engineers had previously been trained by the MTPTC, and they attended regular courses on earthquake resistant structures and damage evaluation of buildings by the University of Buffalo. Not only the senior masons, but also 120 regular masons working within this project have been exposed to the MTPTC’s standard safe repair guidelines.

The hard work of these teams throughout the months allowed the safe resettlement of 340 families. The ACTED Léogâne Area Coordinator, Gérald Servé, explains: “By profoundly rehabilitating the houses, beneficiaries felt like they were entering new homes. The psychological impact of finally breaking away from the earthquake is very important”.

Satisfaction after this big project is a general feeling not only among ACTED team, but also among beneficiaries. Lormil Marie Hislaine claims: «I wanted to start the repairs of my house but I could not afford it. I am thankful for having been selected as beneficiary, and really happy with the final result, it is more that I could imagine. I would have never been able to do this work by myself. Home, at last.”