Tags: homless | Haiti | tents | quake

Only 10,000 Tents for 600,000 Haiti Homeless

Sunday, 24 Jan 2010 10:49 PM


CROIX DES BOUQUETS, HAITI -- Aid organizations struggling to shelter more than 600,000 Haitians made homeless by the earthquake said Sunday that there are only 10,000 tents in the country, and that they remain in a warehouse, relegating the population to many more nights in squalid camps and on street sidewalks.

"We have a severe shortage of tents," said Niurka Pineiro of the International Organization for Migration, the lead agency tasked with creating immediate solutions for Haitians left without a roof over their heads.

The IOM is preparing its first official tent city for 10,000 people here in the dry, flat cactus scrub west of the town of Croix des Bouquets, about 10 miles from the Port-au-Prince airport. The site is baking hot, barren, dusty and located next to a half-constructed development gone bust called Village des Antilles. The "village" was abandoned five or six years ago, according to Jean Francois Pitesse, a guard, who said, "They ran out of money." What is left is a concrete block ghost town painted in South Florida pastels, now roofless, rotting.

Relief officials say they cannot erect the tents here until they build latrines and arrange for water. According to Stevenson Brea, a man from Croix des Bouquets who showed up because he heard there might be work, the foreigners came with bulldozers, leveled the field, and then left -- three days ago. Nobody was working at the site Sunday.

A local man, who was gathering the upended tree roots at the site to make charcoal, wondered why anyone would want to live so far from the city, in the middle of a herd of goats, with no services, transportation or work.

But relief officials are planning to operate a cash-for-work program at the site, whereby the tented residents would be paid $5 a day to build their own homes -- or perhaps convert the Village of Antilles into something habitable.

Mountains of supplies are pouring into the overwhelmed airport in Port-au-Prince, but for each new crate of antibiotics or pallet of condensed milk, a new exasperating bottleneck appears.

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