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News and Resources

Rebuilding Homes in Haiti

News and Resources
By Jacques Samson
Jacques Samson is a Rooftops Canada technical advisor who recently returned from an assessment mission in Haiti carried out in partnership with Oxfam Quebec.  
Arriving in Port-au-Prince one month after the January 12th earthquake, I was struck by the apparent normality of activities on the streets – active vendors, buses travelling at full speed, and heavy traffic. But the physical devastation was enormous and evident everywhere.
The Haiti earthquake is one of the worst natural catastrophes of recent years because the quake hit densely populated cities like Port-au-Prince and Leogane. The Haitian government reports that 222,570 people died, but the finals toll may reach 300,000. About 1.5 million Haitians were made homeless by the disaster. In Port-au-Prince alone, more than 100,000 homes were destroyed and over 200,000 damaged.
Haitians have had no time to complain. They have been forced to carry on to survive and find ways to shelter and feed their families. The current “homes” of most of the earthquake victims are structures made of wood and plastic sheeting.
The enormity of the disaster makes it very difficult to establish temporary settlements or develop straightforward reconstruction plans. Responses to this disaster require exceptional coordination, combined with a clear vision at the top decision-making levels. Equally important is the need to set up development programs that integrate inputs from the grassroots, helping to ensure sustainable results.
Shelter approaches that focus on reintegrating families into their previous environment are an urgent priority. Rooftops Canada and Oxfam Quebec are developing such a project near Jacmel. Temporary refugee camps can house families for whom it is impossible or too risky to return to where they used to live. But, sites must be identified that will fit into longer term plans for rebuilding Haiti’s cities. .
Canadians should advocate for and support reconstruction programs that involve Haitian community members in the decision-making and implementation process. History tells us that community led rebuilding projects will help people re-engage following the trauma of such a catastrophe. The people of Haiti need to rebuild both their homes and their lives.
To support reconstruction work in Haiti, please click on donate now or send your donation to Rooftops Canada, 720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 313, Toronto ON M5S 2T9.