Haiti: no property, but huge challenges

by Susanne Merkel/RBU, 2011/04/28

In March, Susanne Merkel, the humedica employee in charge of family sponsorships once more travelled to Haiti in order to assess the population's living situation before the approaching hurricane season.

A lot has improved since Susanne Merkel's last trip to Haiti twelve months ago - living conditions, however, only slightly so. Photo: humedica/Susanne Merkel

She visited those families who are receiving support thanks to the donations made in the framework of our sponsorship programme. Although Susanne has already seen a lot of misery and living conditions that are beneath human dignity by our standards, she was nevertheless particularly touched by the fates of some Haitian families.

"I returned to Haiti one year after my first visit. What has changed since then? It is obvious on first sight that there are fewer ruins in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Some destroyed buildings have been cleared away in the meantime, and some have been rebuilt. Construction sites in many places indicate that there, too, new buildings are being set up.

But unfortunately, there are still numerous parallels to my last stay twelve months ago: the roads are bad, there is a lot of traffic and tents or even entire tent cities are set up by the roadsides. New tent cities have been set up in particular on the city's outskirts. Far from any kind of infrastructure they are dependent on supplies with water and other necessities.

During my stay, I was intended to visit families together with our local colleagues and to assess their living situation. In this context I also had the opportunity of getting to know our Haitian employee in charge, Jacqueson, in person. He is doing a very good job and really cares for the families.

Some fates were particularly touching. For example the fate of Frednel: he and his young wife and their five daughters are living in a tent at a small camp in Delmas 75, one of the city's most affected regions. The youngest child is only six weeks old.

There are thousands of Haitians who are experiencing the same fate as Frednel and his family: again and again are they have to face new challenges. Photo: humedica/Susanne Merkel

The family is living in two tents set up in a field. During the day it gets unbearably hot inside the tents and outside there hardly is any shade. Even during my stay heavy rainfalls went down each night, but so far they have fortunately only been of a short nature. Nevertheless, the water entered the tents that had been set up at the hillside.

The family's triplets are called Fedleine, Fedna and Fedlyne. They are three years old and very curious and lively. The oldest daughter Fedjina attends school, as we are able to pay for her school fees thanks to the humedica family sponsorship programme.

In the past, Frednel worked at a shop selling electrical devices such as radios and TVs. "In the past", that means before the earthquake. The shop was destroyed on January 12, 2010, and despite intensive efforts, the father of the family has so far not succeeded in finding a new job.

His parents and siblings live in St. Marc and neither he nor his wife have any relatives living in Port-au-Prince who could take them in. After having lost all their belongings, the family is now being faced with a new challenge: the owner of the land on which they set up their tents will soon need the field for his own requirements. For the families living there this means that they will have to leave the property.

Most of them do not have another place to go - among them also Frednel and his family. Their only alternative would be to go to St. Marc, where they could live with their relatives at least for the time being. But how is Frednel supposed to earn a living in the foreign city? How is he supposed to find help and offer his daughter the possibility of receiving education?

The fate of another family, which touched me deeply, was the one of Michele Masila. In the past, Ms Masila had worked as a nurse. Her first husband left her when she lost her vision due to an eye disease. Later, she found herself a new husband who provided for her family. She bore two more children to him.

In particular in view of the approaching hurricane season, the makeshift accommodations are no real option. Photo: humedica/Susanne Merkel

During the earthquake she lost her husband - and furthermore also her parents and many other relatives. Consequently, Ms Masila and her four children moved to a tent set up in the yard of friends. This was only a temporary solution and later they moved into a house that had only partly been finished and did not belong to them.

Her brother Louidonne, father of six children and widower since the devastating earthquake, is also living in the same house. Now they are in a similar situation like the families living at the above mentioned camp: the house owner wants the families which have been left homeless due to the disaster to leave his property.

Together, we can achieve a lot

The situation Frednel, Masila and Louidonne are experiencing is representative for many others who cannot and do not want to live at camps or in tents on the long term. Living conditions are difficult and often very unhealthy, in particular for small children. The wet season has already started; the rains will get heavier in April and then there also is the threat of hurricanes, which will persist until the end of the year. Living through the storms in a tent is no real option.

Living space and work are the basis for an independent life. Our sponsorship programme offers support in the form of food and basic medical care. Furthermore, we pay the children's school fees. But some families need more. Initial aid for starting a small business is a good alternative. For this purpose, some sponsors have already made special donations of 100 to 200 euros for their families.

Let us join forces to help - thank you very much for your support. Photo: humedica/Susanne Merkel

Other families dispose of a piece of land on which they could set up a better accommodation, but they cannot afford the building material. In this case too, we would like to help. In Haiti it is possible to buy simple houses that can be set up by the families themselves with the appropriate instructions, as long as they dispose of some land. For about 2000 euros it will offer protection from rain and storms and an earthquake resistant shelter."

Please support our efforts to help the people in Haiti also in future. Also - or particularly because - public attention for their misery is getting ever weaker, although living conditions are improving only slowly. You can find the application form for taking over a sponsorship here.

Apart from that you can also support us by means of an online donation or by making a donation to the account below:
      humedica e.V.
      Donation reference “Earthquake Haiti
      Account 47 47
      Bank Code 734 500 00
      Sparkasse Kaufbeuren

You can also support us in a safe, fast and direct way by means of sending a text message: send a text message containing the reference DOC to +49 8 11 90. You will donate 5 euros, with 4.83 euros of this amount being directly channelled into the humedica projects.

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