Praying for something better. Damaged homes damaged lives in Haiti. Photo © UN-HABITAT/A. Grimard
UN-HABITAT said on Wednesday it was stepping up plans to help an estimated 2 million people left homeless in Haiti after the most devastating earthquake to hit the Caribbean island nation in 250 years.
“Shelter assistance should be provided as close to the affected populations as possible thus preventing further displacement and the relocation of people into large camps,” said UN-HABITAT Senior Human Settlements Officer Alain Grimard after a survey of the devastation.
The latest UN toll this week put number of lives lost in the 12 January quake at 250,000. They included at least 85 members of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Mr. Grimard said UN-HABITAT had strongly recommended to the UN emergency management centre in Haiti that efforts must to be made to address housing matters as early as possible.
UN-HABITAT has repeatedly advised that the camps be established in neighbourhoods as near to people’s homes as possible, and that the rubble is carefully sifted so that what can be saved is re-used for home repairs, road improvement and reinforcement against further landslides. This is important in a place where many homes were traditionally built on steep slopes.
Despite the extent of devastation in an earthquake there is a surprising amount of re-useable material that can be salvaged and enable Haitians to rebuild their homes. The use of salvaged materials with earthquake-resistant technologies, has proven highly effective when deployed elsewhere including by Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake.
UN staff and emergency aid workers camped out near the airport. Photo © UN-HABITAT/A. Grimard
“Experience worldwide shows that people affected by disasters are keen to return to their homes as soon as possible to regain a sense of place, adjust to the psychological trauma of the disaster, and reclaim their lives” he said.
UN-HABITAT is a principal member of the Executive Committee on Humanitarian Affairs (ECHA), and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for humanitarian operations (IASC) chaired by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Agency provides shelter and human settlements support to government and other humanitarian agencies. It has had a team of experienced staff working in Haiti virtually since the disaster struck.
The agency issued a working brief on how it is planning to achieve these goals.