As Tropical Storms Threaten Haiti, International Community Can, and Must, Do More for Shelter

06/17/2010 12:00am

On Tuesday, reported that Haiti will be at an increased risk of flooding this weekend, as a “tropical disturbance toting heavy showers and gusty thunderstorms moves in from the Eastern Atlantic.” The report continues, “In addition, Hurricane Expert Joe Bastardi is predicting a second surge of tropically induced rain in the next two weeks with a tropical wave following the current system…”. Adding that in Haiti, “Most of the shelters available to refugees today consist of tarps and tents that may not be able to withstand extreme weather.”

In fact, many on the ground in Haiti have been provided with neither tarps nor tents. Although the Shelter Cluster reports 134 percent coverage of emergency shelter materials, looking deeper at the data shows that this may be misleading. While coverage for some areas greatly exceeds 100 percent, for others the coverage is significantly lower. A total of 232,130 people are still without either tents or tarps according to Shelter Cluster data from June 8. In addition to this number, a recent document from the Shelter Cluster notes that, “Tarps and tents that were distributed  in the first three months are more likely to have reached the end of their life span and might need to be replaced.” The number of households whose soul source of protection from the weather are tents and tarps distributed in the first three months is an amazing 276,422, or well over 1 million people.

Despite this dire picture, efforts to build transitional shelters have faltered. There are 122,000 transitional shelters that have already been funded according to the Shelter Cluster, yet only 2,000 have been completed as of June 8.

Thus far, the international community has largely pointed blame towards the Haitian government for not acting fast enough to use eminent domain or designate already public land, however there is more the international community can do. First off, as of two weeks ago, Brazil was the only country that has fulfilled its aid pledge from the UN donor conference. Although much of this money will be overseen by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, led by Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Bellerive, some of it was to be used as direct budget support. Without this support it is unrealistic to expect the weakened Haitian government to undertake an ambitious expropriation program on its own. Furthermore, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission could play a key roll in using reconstruction funds to secure valuable land, however the commission has not even had its first full meeting. Finally, the United States has a significant role to play as well. Many of the large landholders in Haiti have close and historical ties to the United States. A strong statement from the United States on using eminent domain to secure land for the internally displaced could go a long way towards generating support and momentum for the relocation plans.

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