Shelter urgently needed for Haitian quake victims, UN reports

Haitians build temporary homes in Port-au-Prince

2 February 2010 – Beyond food, hundreds of thousands of Haitian earthquake victims displaced from their homes in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Jacmel urgently need shelter, with plastic sheeting taking priority over tents, the United Nations reported today in its latest update three weeks after the catastrophe struck the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Haiti’s Ministry of Health, with support from the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is planning a targeted immunization campaign beginning today for people in temporary settlements, including rubella and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccines for children under seven and diphtheria and tetanus for older children and adults, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

Sanitation, which was already a challenge in Haiti prior to the devastating 12 January quake, which killed up to 200,000 people, injured many others and left 2 million in need of aid, is an even greater challenge now, and will remain an important public health issue in the coming weeks, according to UN health officials.

The Government estimates that some $32 million is needed to buy urgent seeds, tools and fertilizers for farmers so that they can begin planting in March, with the spring planting season usually accounting for 60 per cent of Haiti’s agricultural production, OCHA said.

Due to the need to ensure that crops are harvested from the August-October planting season, farmers are not able to migrate to temporary sites or shelter points and many therefore are not being counted in needs assessments and have not received assistance. A UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) aerial assessment of the Grand Goâve and Léogâne areas found that 20 to 60 per cent of farmhouses were destroyed.

The overall security situation across the country remains stable but potentially volatile, OCHA reported. The Haitian police presence is increasing and joint patrolling with UN police is covering many areas in the capital.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says it has now reached around 850,000 people since the earthquake struck, with rations lasting up to two weeks, and it hopes to provide rice to some 2 million Haitians over the next two weeks.

Provision of shelter materials other than plastic sheeting is not feasible in most spontaneous camps due to the density of the sites and lack of relocation space in the vicinity, and plastic sheeting is being prioritized over tents, with the full endorsement of the Government, to ensure that shelters will last during the rainy season and beyond.

Yesterday UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti Kim Bolduc said 200,000 tents would be needed for the rainy season in three months’ time. Shelter support will be incrementally upgraded to transitional shelter and eventually be replaced by construction of permanent housing, OCHA said.

As to logistics, OCHA reported that the south pier of Port-au-Prince port remains unsound, with a capacity to offload some 250 TEU (20-foot container equivalent) per day. This is expected to increase to 500 TEU per day in the coming week. Over 100 ships are currently on their way to Haiti and a system of prioritization is being discussed with the Government. The ports of Cap-Haïtien, Saint Marc and Miragoâne are functional but all have limited capacity.

Meanwhile, Port-au-Prince airport is handling some 120 to 150 planes per day, the number split between United States military aircraft, US civilian flights carrying relief cargo, and international humanitarian flights.


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