LES CAYES, Haiti (October 1, 2021) — Habitat for Humanity and ShelterBox have started distributing emergency shelter aid to communities who lost homes in the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that recently devastated southwestern Haiti.
The earthquake destroyed nearly 53,000 homes and severely damaged 77,000 more. People who lost their homes were left exposed to the elements, with little privacy or protection from the ongoing severe weather and other threats.
ShelterBox and Habitat for Humanity, in close coordination with government and local officials, are distributing shelter kits in hard-hit communities. The kits include tarpaulins, tools and fixings, thermal blankets, solar lights, kitchen sets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and water carriers.
ShelterBox is supplying emergency shelter aid as well as training and technical support to people using the items. Habitat for Humanity is using its strong local connections to run and monitor the distributions while also identifying shelter needs in communities.
“Quality shelter materials are in scarce supply and an absolutely urgent need right now here in Haiti,” said Jean Frenel Tham, national director of Habitat for Humanity Haiti. “Even many families whose homes are still standing are choosing to sleep outside for fear their damaged homes could still cave in. By working together, Habitat and ShelterBox will be able to get more families back on their feet faster, so they can begin rebuilding homes and entire communities.”
“Providing the vital emergency shelter aid that families need after the earthquake helps to ensure that much-needed resources are available for the initial emergency. As well as being used for emergency shelters and repairs, this partnership will also contribute to providing the foundations for further recovery and reconstruction. Families in Haiti deserve a place to call home” said Alice Jefferson, ShelterBox head of responses. “Habitat for Humanity has been a trusted and valued partner for many years. We know that by working together, we will make the biggest difference to the people who need support.”
ShelterBox has responded to several disasters in Haiti, including in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In 2010, ShelterBox provided shelter for 140,000 people, the organization’s biggest response to date, outside the long-running conflict in Syria.
Habitat for Humanity has worked in Haiti since 1984. The organization also helped rebuild and rehabilitate communities devastated by the 2010 earthquake. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew five years ago, Habitat partnered with families to build or repair more than 1,800 homes. Early assessments following August’s earthquake indicate that roughly 98% of those homes are safe and free of significant damage.
Habitat and ShelterBox have worked together in disaster responses around the world, from India and Malawi to the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Paraguay.
Habitat homes in Haiti earthquake zone proved to be resilient and safe
While Habitat has yet to complete detailed assessments of more than 1,800 homes we built or improved in partnership with families here after Hurricane Mathew’s devastation in 2016, early assessments indicate that roughly 98% of them are safe after the earthquake, free of any significant damage.
This includes 15 new homes designed for elderly residents in Beaumont and funded by Maryland’s Habitat Choptank and 300 homes built in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, or ECHO.
But this is not the reality for most households in the areas impacted by the earthquake. Proof of this is the testimony of the mayor of Beaumont, Marcel Fortuné, who told Habitat for Humanity’s disaster response team in Haiti that he is still coming to terms with how much the city has lost; and how much remains to be rebuilt.
By Aug 19th, the death toll in Haiti stood at more than 1,900 as he spoke, including 45 residents of Beaumont, and roughly 10,000 injured — all figures expected to rise as search and rescue crews reach more areas. At least 61,000 homes have been destroyed across the region, and another 76,000 severely damaged.
According to rapid assessments conducted by Habitat Haiti and other organizations in partnership with the Haitian government, the earthquake destroyed nearly 1,400 homes in Beaumont alone. All the municipal buildings serving the city of 50,000, from the courthouse to the administrative offices, collapsed.
“We’re lucky this happened on a Saturday morning, when no one was in the building,” Fortuné says of the earthquake that started shaking the mountainous terrain on Aug. 14, 2021. “If not, we likely would have lost many of our staff members.”
Habitat for Humanity continues the work from the affected areas, with the goal of supporting the Haitian government and families in the aftermath of the disaster.
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Habitat for Humanity Haiti was happy to participate in URBAcafe, a panel on urban resilience in Haiti organized through our partnership with the European Union. Habitat for Humanity was invited to provide expert opinion on international resilience in housing.
The socially distanced panel consisted of experts in the field, architects, engineers, as well as members of Haiti government in charge of building and construction regulations.
It featured lively debate about the true meaning of resilience, which is not just surviving a traumatic incident such as an earthquake, but to actively work to come out of it better than before. The meeting was attended by masked attendees as well as projected live on ZOOM for an international audience who also submitted questions and remarks on the topic.
Our lively conversations concluded that although Haiti has taken on many positive steps to prevent possible future national disasters from having such a terrible death toll in the future, there is still much work to be done. One of the steps the program has decided to take on to improve resilience, is research into alternative raw materials in construction, in partnership with three Universities in Haiti.
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At a time when a safe and healthy home has never been more important, Habitat Haiti serves over 9,000 people through new and improved housing
Local work contributes to more than 5.9 million served globally by Habitat in 2020
Port-au-Prince, November 17, 2020 — Despite economic and operational challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Habitat Haiti successfully adopted new strategies and safe practices to continue helping families in Haiti. The 9,000 people who gained access to safe, decent and affordable housing in the past year helped Habitat reach 35 million people served since its founding in 1976.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt it was important to continue construction on the houses that were unfinished prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. At Habitat Haiti, we finished constructions on 11 houses in the northern part of Haiti.
This work is part of the more than 5.9 million people that Habitat for Humanity served around the world last year. Habitat Haiti is part of the larger Habitat for Humanity network, which operates in all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries.
Cado, 71, is one of the families that has been helped by our efforts and is able to shelter at home through the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her grandchildren now have a safe home, built to withstand hurricanes and other environmental disasters. Cado, whose parents felt it was not important to provide her with an education because she’s a woman, has made sure that her children and her grandchildren receive the education that she never had. She is able to use her home as a storefront for a small business which enables her to provide for herself and her family.
Since 1984, Habitat Haiti has partnered with 9,000 people to increase access to affordable, safe and decent housing in the local community through new construction, rehabilitation and repairs. In fiscal year 2020, Habitat Haiti has continued to work with communities throughout Haiti, building homes, and safe water sanitation conditions for those who need it the most. With the ongoing pandemic, we shifted our focus to spread awareness about appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 especially in rural areas of Haiti where people were not aware of the dangers posed by the virus.
“While this year has brought many challenges and heartaches to communities we serve across the world, I’m grateful that Habitat has had an opportunity to serve so many families when they needed it most,” said Jonathan T.M. Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “At Habitat, we are religious about our principles, but not about our tactics. I’ve been blown away by the ingenuity and flexibility of Habitat organizations around the world who quickly adapted to the new normal and built new strategies to carry out our mission. We are clear-eyed that the future will bring more headwinds, but I know that the people who enable our mission — our donors, staff, volunteers and the people we serve — are as dedicated as ever to our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
To learn more and to read Habitat’s 2020 annual report, visit: habitat.org/multimedia/annual-report-2020.
Habitat for Humanity Haiti has partnered with the European Union to launch a 3-year program which aims to reduce pollution and create jobs in Haiti. This project falls under an umbrella program by the European Union in Haiti named URBAYITI; it will foster partnership with Haitian universities to facilitate research into turning plastic waste into roads and construction materials.
Urbayiti is a pilot program launched in three cities, Port-au-Prince, Jérémie and Cayes. Strategic partnerships have been implemented with universities and local governments to both help reduce plastic waste and pollution and build what should ultimately be cheaper and more durable construction raw materials.
In Haiti, plastic waste is already sourced by companies such as HP, to make ink cartridges, and shoe company Timberland, which is also using Haiti’s plastic waste for its heavy-duty boots. This provides jobs to local communities, where people can earn a living picking up plastic waste, which would otherwise end up clogging canals, and ultimately pollute the ocean.
In India, 620 miles of roads have been paved using plastic waste, the findings were conclusive, plastic roads were more durable than traditional asphalt, cheaper to build, and better for the environment. Habitat has met with the Mayor of Cayes, Sylvie Rameau, to begin a partnership to help implement this program and reinforce practices that will bring revenue to the city as well as ensure safer building practices.
In addition to its recycling for construction project, URBAYITI will also target people in the construction sector to teach them the latest in proper construction techniques, so that they may have the know-how to build houses that will withstand environmental disasters. Habitat also provides training to students who have yet to enter the job market in vocational schools in the three areas of operation. Habitat for Humanity is committed to empower through innovation.
Habitat Haiti recently hosted 147 people in a series of five seminars on property law in Haiti. The workshops were spread out over multiple days in order to ensure social distancing.
One of the speakers, Lawyer Jacques, explained, “I believe these interactive workshops are important…When you encourage intelligent discourse, people feel seen and are more engaged.” The workshop had several lively debates over urbanization, the proper management of slums, and what role, if any, the government has on managing places like Canaan, a community which sprang forth almost overnight following the 2010 earthquake.
James, a graduate student at Universite de l’Etat Haitienne, attended all five workshops as part of his research in social anthropology. Following a decree from then President Preval releasing the land in Canaan for private use, many people mistakenly believe that they now own the land where they have built their home. James told us, “I think these workshops are essential, if only to dispel the idea that the land now belongs to those who occupy it. Now, they can learn the channels to go through in order to claim proper ownership of the space they inhabit. They believe they can leave their spot of land to their children, but you cannot bequeath what you never owned in the first place.” Most of the attendees stated that they found a lot of value in the information that was shared and that they would in turn share it with friends and family members.
These workshops are set to continue over the next three years as Habitat is committed to ensuring all residents of Canaan understand their property rights.
Habitat report: Emerging economies undervalue housing’s share of GDP, risk missing a key to COVID-19 recovery
Over 30 years ago, the United Nations designated the first Monday of October as World Habitat Day. This year, we never could have foreseen the importance of safe and adequate shelter in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, contemplated Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO.
Access to adequate, affordable housing has been a longstanding issue in Haiti exacerbated by natural disasters. The Government of Haiti estimates that 700,000 housing units would be required to meet the pre-2010 earthquake situation and accommodate for urban growth.
According to data from ECLAC, in Latin America and the Caribbean, almost 100 million people (21% of the urban population) live in poverty, unsuitable housing, with little access to drinking water and sanitation.
For this reason, in the framework of World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity published the report “Cornerstone of Recovery” in which the organization considers how much official statistics might underestimate the role of housing in the economy, given the size of the informal sector in many emerging economies; and develops unofficial estimates.
The objective was to establish the role of housing in economies, representing both investment and housing consumption. To that end, the GDP of 11 countries was examined in detail, analyzing whether the housing sector could support economic recovery throughout the world. With this economic stimulus, low-income households would have access to safer and healthier homes, which would in turn help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“The results are revealing: existing datasets in low- to middle-income countries are often incomplete or inaccurate, and efforts to measure housing’s contribution to the economy have largely focused on developed countries, according to the report”, says Ernesto Castro-García, Area Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International, Area Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Low- and middle-income countries tend to emphasize housing construction’s share of GDP in national datasets but not the larger housing services component, which includes rent or mortgages, maintenance and utilities.
As a result, housing is a larger-than-expected contributor to emerging economies’ GDP, averaging 13.1% in our sample countries, on par with sectors such as manufacturing, which often draws more attention in economic recovery plans.
Furthermore, informal housing and housing services are likely to be undercounted or not counted at all in national accounts. Informal housing alone, could contribute an additional 1.5% to 2.8% to GDP on average, if properly accounted for. This means housing is likely an even larger contributor to GDP – up to 21.8 percent of GDP in the countries studied. If only half of the informal sector is accounted for, it would increase housing’s addition to the GDP average from 13.1% to 14.6% the report found.
Unnoticed importance. Although interventions in the housing sector can produce large economic stimulus effects and would improve the health conditions of families, they are not used prominently by governments. Proof of this is that of the 196 countries that have developed an economic response to the pandemic, only 22% (or 11%) have explicitly included housing components in their plans, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Interventions in the housing sector can have not only large economic stimulus effects but also improve individual welfare and community health, by helping alleviate overcrowding and creating healthier living conditions. In addition, they create jobs and, particularly in the time of a pandemic, would help avoid the overcrowding that makes communities more vulnerable to the virus. Our country must review and include the housing market in the economic reactivation plan”, Jean Frenel Tham, National Director at Habitat for Humanity Haiti.
Additionally, the report authors recommend stimulus policies that, in cooperation with the international and private sectors, focus on middle- and low- income families while including the formal and informal housing market. It emphasizes short-term actions to make land available for housing; open access to finance for developers, households and landlords; provide equitable subsidies to households; and offer incentives to lenders and builders.
|Title: “Cornerstone of Recovery: How Housing Can Help Emerging Market Economies Rebound from COVID-19. Commissioned by Habitat’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Housing.
Co-authored by Arthur Acolin, assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington, and Marja Hoek-Smit, director of the International Housing Finance Program of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School Zell/Lurie Real Estate Center.
Analyzes housing data from 11 emerging market economies: Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Alexandra Jackson, and I’m a manager and land tenure specialist for the Leveraging Land in Haiti Program. I am a Christian woman. My passion is evangelism. In my spare time, I like to organize sessions of socially active evangelism with youth. I motivate them and accompany them to be more socially active. Our last activity was an awareness campaign towards COVID-19 in my neighborhood.
How long have you been working with HFHH?
What is your favorite memory with HFHH?
When we went to Cap Haitian, the day after an awareness workshop where we distributed manuals about property law, I met many women with our manuals in hand, notes scribbled along the margins. They took the time in less than a day to read it and come up with questions the very next day.
What are some of your interests? What do you do in your spare time?
I love working in property law in Haiti. I’ve been doing it for close to 10 years. I even earned my Master’s in property law. I like seeing how human relations are intertwined with property in Haiti.
Describe yourself using three words.
Altruistic, optimistic and trusting.
What are some of your goals for the future?
Aside from my goal to be even more involved in my community. I’d like to take on a specialty in property law management. This would go well with my current degree.