Haiti races to house post-quake homeless before the rainy season
The Haiti government needs 40,000 dwellings for 200,000 people currently homeless in flood- or mudslide-prone areas or in the most congested tent cities. Can it do that by the time the rainy season starts in early April?
When Aleksandre Radosavcec landed in Haiti just two weeks after the Jan. 12 earthquake, he immediately headed to ground zero. As a longtime disaster relief specialist with Danish People's Aid (DPA), he knew the drill for such emergencies. Within days he'd set up a small office, rented a cellar for living space, and begun to assess what needed to be done, especially before Haiti's rainy season begins in April.Skip to next paragraph
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Together with his partner, Erik Norremark, he presented a temporary housing design to the Shelter Cluster, a conglomerate of dozens of aid agencies coordinating efforts to provide housing to more than 1 million Haitians left homeless by the quake.
The Cluster chose the Danes' 14-square-meter design as its first temporary shelter prototype.
"I'm from Legoland" says Mr. Norremark. "This is a Lego-type assembly kit."
This means that instead of measuring and cutting on site, materials can be precut from molds in workshops staffed by trained mobile construction teams. In only two days, parts can be assembled into an elevated hurricane- and earthquake-proof home that will last three years, minimum.
But if the Legoland solution sounds too simple for Haiti's housing problems, it is.
When April rains begin
As this disaster-stricken country hiccups from emergency to transitional housing, the government needs 40,000 dwellings for 200,000 people currently in flood- or mudslide-prone areas or in the most congested tent cities. Even the government admits it will be nearly impossible to meet its goal by the time the rainy season starts in earnest April 1. Already, rains have drenched people in makeshift tents and homes have slid down hillsides.
The Commission of Damage Assessment, Temporary Shelter, Demolition and Reconstruction, which is in charge of (among other things) relocation, has a complex plan of charts, maps, and spreadsheets to accomplish its task. As opposed to DPA, which is building its homes on the site of destroyed ones, the government needs land, and lots of it.
The capital, Port-au-Prince, where most of the homeless live, has neither appropriate nor available space for massive relocation. The government has identified several sites totaling 6 million square meters (some 1,500 acres) for relocating people to the perimeters of the capital. But because it only owns 50 of the 600 hectares, it is currently in negotiations with private landowners who, in theory, are amenable to making a deal.