The devastating earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12 left an estimated 2 million people homeless. In the last 6 months, Catholic Relief Services has assisted Haitians living in the makeshift camps that formed in and around the capital. Our team distributed more than 33,000 emergency shelter kits of plastic tarp, rope, nails, mosquito nets and blankets. The kits provided housing for about 165,000 Haitians and provided more privacy and protection against the elements than the thin bedsheets they replaced.
Our work has been complicated by impassable roads, mounds of rubble (enough to fill 8,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools), severe deforestation (which prevents use of local lumber), and dire poverty. Nevertheless, CRS has been working with the Haitian government to designate sites where we can provide families with small wooden homes while more permanent solutions are found. We currently employ 12 skilled carpenters and tradesmen, and a cash-for-work crew of 20 at our prefabrication yard. CRS has hired an additional 25 people to assist with erecting the kits at their intended sites.
Sara A. Fajardo is a CRS communications officer covering Latin America and the Caribbean. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.