Staying dry from the rain: Red Cross improves living conditions for families affected by Hurricane Matthew

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People queuing for shelter toolkit distribution site at Arniquet, Antoine, Haiti. © Maria Santto / IFRC / FCU FRC

By Nicole Robicheau, IFRC communications

It is pouring rain in Anse D’Hainault, a town on the southwestern coast of Haiti. A few weeks after Hurricane Matthew devastated the area, many people are still living in homes with badly-damaged roofs. Government officials estimate that around 80 per cent of homes in the Department of Grand’ Anse, which encompasses Anse D’Hainault, have been damaged or destroyed.

Some families have taken shelter in makeshift evacuation centres, such as schools, or at friends’ homes or hospitals. Many people have no other option but to stay in their homes.

The Haiti Red Cross have helped 600 families so far through the distribution of food, pots and pans, water, and hygiene products. Shelter kits have also been provided, which include tarpaulins and tools such as saws, shovels, wire, pliers, hammers and nails, so they can repair their homes.

Augustin Jean was the first person in line during the Red Cross’ second day of distribution. The roof blew off her home when Hurricane Matthew made landfall. She was inside at the time, and had to leave quickly, but she has since returned.

"I covered part of the house with a tarp, but last night because of the rain, I had to stay upright all night so I would not get wet. I used containers to capture the rain," says Jean.

Despite the discomfort, the two tarpaulins she received from the Red Cross have made a big difference for Jean. She is glad she can at least be in her home again, and remain dry.

It didn’t take long after Merita Martial received tarps and tools from the Red Cross before she and her son fixed their roof.

“When it rained hard, we were getting wet,” says Martial. “Matthew lifted the house during the hurricane.”

Martial was originally living in a four-room house with her two children. Now the house is down to only one room. With the roof repaired, the family is managing in the space they have, but their future is uncertain. Martial was relying on being able to rent this home, and build a new one on a piece of land that she owns nearby. “I run a small business. I sell a few things, but all the goods were damaged in the storm. I don’t have money to buy more,” she explains.

Jacqueline Joseph lives down the road from Martial with her four children. Her husband died last year, and making ends meet has been hard for Joseph, especially since she lost her eyesight two years ago. Joseph has been to the hospital to take tests, but no one has been able to figure out why it happened. She depends on friends and family to give her money.

“During Matthew, I was sleeping with my children, and around midnight, the roof blew off,” says Martial. With the tarp now covering them day and night, she can stay dry from the rain.

“This is the first time I will be able to sleep in the house since Matthew,” says Joseph.

For Jean, Martial and Joseph, the tarps and tools that the Red Cross provide are only temporary-shelter solutions, until more permanent solutions are available.

“Emergency measures for shelter are critical, because without protection from the rain, people are getting sick with pneumonia,” says Mamen Sancha, a shelter expert from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “Ultimately, it is our goal to move towards durable-housing solutions, rebuilding and reconstructing as soon as possible.” Yet until that happens, shelter kits are an easy way to help families live in a safe, dry environment.

“The power of the shelter kit is its flexibility. With a tent, there is only one way to use it. With these kits, there is a set of materials that can be used to repair a home; you can create an extension, for example, or build a new structure altogether,” says Sancha.

An additional benefit of the shelter kit is that once people have repaired their homes, they can either use the tools for other types of work, or sell them to provide additional income for the family.

“For example, the tarps are very durable. I have seen people use them to dry cacao seeds or coconuts. They have a great value for the family,” she explains.

The Haiti Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is committed to helping communities recover from Hurricane Matthew through programmes in shelter as well as water and sanitation, livelihoods, and more. For more information on the Red Cross operations in Haiti and how you can help please visit www.ifrc.org