Haiti: Shelter Needs Crucial as Raining Season Begins

A woman and her family live in a tent community on a soccer field in Jacmel, Haiti, February 9, 2010. People across Haiti continue to deal with the aftermath of the devastating January 12 earthquake. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/ACT Alliance)

Relief agencies working in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake are urgently trying to step up their efforts as heavy storms last week signaled the beginnings of the raining season.

Needs for more adequate shelters for survivors became painfully evident after a soaking downpour lasting for several hours fell on Wednesday.

"It has rained before, but not so hard and so long," said Marie Lucie Osias, a 37-year-old survivor who lives in an encampment in Petionville with her 10-year-old son.

Her other three children died in the quake.

"Our clothes got wet, everything got wet. I just tried to keep the water out the best I could," she told Action by Churches Together (ACT) International.

Osias explained that whenever water started to pool in the tarp that serves as her roof, she would push it up with a stick and try to make sure it ran off to the outside instead of coming in.

Other camp residents were not so lucky, including Ouslande Beaubrun whose shelter was made of bed sheets.

According to ACT, Beaubrun stayed up the night standing on blocks to keep out from the mud.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 1 million Haitians are living in temporary shelters, with about half of them considered "at some degree of risk."

OCHA further estimates that only 24 percent of survivors in need of shelter have received tarps or tents.

Haitian President Rene Preval underscored the need for emergency shelter in an appeal he made for more aid on Sunday.

"The first rainy days that have started falling in Port-au-Prince have made it impossible to enjoy a dignified life and this is the reason for the request for shelters," Preval said, according to Aljazeera.

Sanitation is another need that has been exacerbated by the rain.

The number of latrines currently usable by survivors is less than 20 percent of the U.N.'s projected need in the region, with rains threatening to bring human waste into the encampments.

"We now need a surge in effort to improve sanitation facilities for people in Haiti," said Marcel Stoessel, head of Oxfam's operations in Haiti. "Let us not kid ourselves that this is going to be easy. It requires a Herculean humanitarian effort from all quarters."

Stoessel added that "around 230,000 people lost their lives on 12 January. It is our priority to make sure that we don't let that number grow."

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