After 2 weeks of work in Port au Prince and the target area Carrefour, the epicenter, we have now established contacts within the local community and to other relief organisations, as well as the UN coordination unit for Tempoary Shelter construction.
Also we are establishing a base camp in town, to live in a secure environment in an apparently earthquake safe zone of Port au Prince, Petionville. We think that this place is build on rocks so no buildings were damaged. It is important for a peaceful sleep after a long work day to know that the house you live in is not going to crash on your head. To reduce cost and get more than one room to share we have rented two rooms in the cellar and are now fixing some improved ventilation and hot water, as to get a reasonable life style off-work. Upstairs is a café with free wireless internet, so we have easy access to communication and food although the price is a bit high for a meal. But we get at least one good meal a day, usually dinner.
In Carrefour a rented house is being use as field office, while still under renovation to improve security. An extra water tank, generator and internet will be installed shortly, while the broken wall in the back yard has already been repaired. In a few day the barbed wire will be installed on all walls, as crime rate is elevated due to the poverty in Haiti, especially in Carrefour.
The GPS coordinates for Danish People's Aid field office where I work are: N 18°32'39.8" W 072°24'00.8"
From the satellite foto it is not possible to see that more than 50%, maybe up to 70% of building are damaged beyond repair. However, people will rather try to repair with some plaster and hope the best. But many people are still still scared of afterquakes and living in tents in the street, if lucky to have a tent. Many are living under a piece of plastic or just a bed sheet. It will become very bad when the rain season starts.
The previous information that I should be building a village is to be corrected to establishing temporary shelters for homeless families in urban area affected by the earthquake. So we work in the epicenter, which is high density area, with houses standing shoulder to shoulder in the street, 1 or 2 stories, with some kind of back yard, but build on very small plots.
Due to the high cost of timber, all houses are made of concrete with iron reinforcement, but of poor quality and not earthquake proof. This is the reason that so many buildings are flat or seriously damaged. In the area where we work only the house we rent for office and some few other 1 story house are not damaged. The two neighbouring houses in 2 stories, on both sides of our office are already in serious danger for further collaps, if unlucky falling into our office if we get a serious aftershock. We just hope the small house can take the extra load if shit happens, and that we are not there when it happens. But now you have the coordinates to come looking for me if I should faile to send another report.
The plan is to get started this week with the construction of demonstration units of temporary shelters, using materials procured on Haiti (more expensive timber compared to imported from USA). Then when other relief organisations can see what we are doing they may want to support the budget with more materials or money, so we can complete the target of 500 shelters for homeless families, or more.
I have made a low-cost design for 14 m2 with an estimated price of 535 USD in materials and shipping from USA. The UN coordination team for shelters are still discussing that 18 m2 should be minimum, suitable for 5 persons after SPHERE standard. However, families are not always following the standard, so even 18 m2 may be too small to some families.
The 14 m2 is only fit for 4 people (3.5 m2 per person), but will give shelters for more families and be easier to place on the plots where they are clearing. We are allowed to build 14 m2 when using the argument of too little free space in urban environment. If one household is very big, they will get two shelters.
It has to be a balance of getting most value for the money, i.e. giving most possible families a temporary shelter to protect them from the rains.
As most of my time goes with meetings and looking for building materials when stating up the building process I only got one action photo, helping to clear the rubble at the site for building the first demonstration unit of tempoary shelter. The owner is Patric who will work on the mobile construction team when we get the imported building materials. Patric is getting help from some young American volunteers to clear the rubble.
In the photo I borrowed the sledge hammer for a minute from Steve, a construction worker from Pennsylvania giving his help here for a week or two. Steve complained about the heat working in the sun. And I know it is tough because the temperature in the shade at noon reaches 35° Celsius. You need to drink a lot of water and eat extra salt to compensate for the loss to transpiration.
Actually I don't mind the cold shower after a day in the heat. And of course the cold water here is not like in Denmark, but some 25° warm comming from the tank on the roof, so it is bearable and refreshing.
Warm regards from Haiti Erik Thorbjørn Nørremark
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