ADRA Relocates Displaced Haitians Living on Dangerous Road Median

SILVER SPRING, Md. – Hundreds of people who had been living in precarious makeshift shacks in the middle of a busy Port-au-Prince road since last year’s deadly Haiti earthquake are now staying in safe new shelters provided by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the agency reported.

Click here to listen to a National Public Radio broadcast about this project.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), ADRA built 160 transitional shelters to accommodate some of the most vulnerable families living in the middle of a heavily traveled four-lane road that cuts through Carrefour, a densely populated neighborhood in the southern part of Port-au-Prince.

“Yes, I like it,” said Louise, a 50-year old woman who spent a year living with her husband and four children in a small tin shelter on the median before receiving a new shelter.

After the January 12, 2010 quake, hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians who lost their homes or who were too afraid to return to them for fear of further collapse built impromptu shelters wherever they could find empty land. For many people, however, finding appropriate shelter became difficult. That meant turning to places such as streets or unsafe road medians to ensure a place to live.

Within days, hundreds of tightly packed tin and tarp-covered shelters mushroomed in one of Carrefour’s main thoroughfares, each structure covering the entire width of the median as heavy traffic rushed by on either side.

“No, it was not good because a lot of cars,” said Louise, adding that the living conditions also made them get sick often.

As the camp swelled to more than 3,800 people, the dangers of being struck by oncoming traffic also grew. Residents placed large rocks, cinder blocks, tires, and debris along the road to create a buffer zone between the tiny shelters and the passing cars and trucks. But even those measures could not entirely protect them. According to a camp leader, more than 30 people were struck during the months following the quake and 10 died, among them three children.

“It’s not living. It’s not living. They are just there,” Carrefour mayor Yvon Jerome told a New York City-based CBS television crew who was reporting on the issue a few weeks ago.

On January 14 ADRA inaugurated the new shelter community on a flat coastline area in Carrefour. According to Paulo Lutke, the ADRA project manager who oversaw the construction of the shelters, each beneficiary family received a number that corresponded with the shelter they would occupy. Eager to locate their new shelters, people ran with excitement, Lutke said.

“Tears came from my eyes thinking that we have so much and many times we are not so excited and thankful as these people who received a small temporary shelter,” said Lutke afterward.

The USAID OFDA-funded shelter program, which culminated with the inauguration of this latest shelter community, helped build more than 2,600 shelters in various parts of Port-au-Prince at a cost of approximately $1,000 per structure. Each shelter was constructed using plywood walls, cement floors, and a tin roof, and is expected to be usable for up to five years.

To contribute to ADRA’s global humanitarian efforts, please contact ADRA at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or give online at www.adra.org.

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ADRA is a global non-governmental organization providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

For more information, visit www.adra.org