The numbers are numbing. The January 12 earthquake in Haiti left approximately 1.2 million people homeless, 600,000 of them in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. As the rain and hurricane season begins this month many are still living in shelters constructed from scrap wood and tarps, in informal settlements without adequate power and sanitation.
While the Haitian government oversees long-term redevelopment, private and non-governmental agencies (NGO’s) are taking the lead to provide housing. Some are focusing on overarching strategic work, using their expertise to support other organizations. Architecture for Humanity has developed open-source guidelines for rebuilding, established Community Resource Centers to support NGO builders in the field, and is planning to rebuild schools. The San Francisco based organization Build Change has established simple technical standards for earthquake-resistant construction to guide local and NGO builders.
Many NGO’s are working directly to put up housing. The initial drive is to provide temporary shelters so that people can survive the hurricane season. Teams are searching for quick and economical solutions to help the greatest number of people. Habitat for Humanity began its relief work by distributing thousands of emergency kits packed with twine and tarps to the country. A Home in Haiti, an Atlanta organization that ships camping tents purchased by individual donors directly to the country, has intensified its outreach in recent weeks to beat the impending storms.