Port-au-Prince–(ENEWSPF)–9 March 2010. Just under two months after the earthquake that devastated southern Haiti and left an estimated 1.3 million homeless, humanitarian agencies distributing emergency shelter-materials have reached more than 650,000 people – the halfway mark.
Tens of thousands of tarpaulins, tents, ropes, timber uprights and toolkits continue to pour into Haiti, helping to put some shelter over people’s heads ahead of the rainy season, which peaks in May.
“This is a great milestone,” said Gregg McDonald, who leads the Haiti-based team of specialists coordinating the shelter agencies on secondment from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The IFRC last month took over as coordinator for shelter under the inter-agency humanitarian cluster system.
“To have reached so many people so quickly, especially in the conditions we’ve all had to contend with, is an achievement that should not be underestimated,” McDonald added.
“But despite this success, we’ve certainly not lost sight of the fact that we have many thousands more to reach. The needs are still huge.
“We are all working as hard as we can to keep pushing shelter relief out to those in need as fast as possible.”
The arrival of aid in Haiti was hampered in the immediate aftermath of the quake by massive damage to the country’s infrastructure which saw the seaport closed, the airport clogged and roads blocked.
Much aid had to be flown into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, then trucked to the Haitian capital.
“There is no doubt there were huge obstacles which held up deliveries when the aid operation began,” said Gareth Price-Jones of Concern, a shelter-cluster member agency.
“But we’ve overcome them one by one, and while conditions are still far from ideal, it’s vital we continue to drive ahead together and get shelter to those who remain in need as quickly as we can.”
Agencies working within cluster coordination have reached more than 80,000 people a week since the quake on 12 January.
It’s hoped that two-thirds of those left without shelter by the quake will have been reached by 1 April, which agencies are taking as the on-average start of the rainy season.
The shelter cluster is on track to reach all 1.3m people on or before the original target date of 1 May.
“The Haitian government and the humanitarian community,” McDonald added, “will also step up efforts to identify houses that are safe to return to, and offer support to people staying with friends and relatives.
“The number of those in need of emergency shelter may then have fallen slightly by 1 May.
“We will not let up until the job is done.”