Sunday, June 6, 2010

The shelter question

The NGOs and the UN who are running the shelter cluster (UN speak for the agencies making sure that the homeless in Haiti have a place to live that is dry and safe and free of intrusion by mosquitoes et al) decided a couple of months ago that rather than providing tents to the homeless that they would use tarps.

I have yet to find anyone in the system who can explain this decision to me. The subtext is cost. A tarp cost about $ 30 delivered to Haiti. A decent durable tent cost about $ 500. There is a need for about 400,000 shelters. Now remember that we aren't talking about permanent homes. I am talking about immediate shelter needs for hungry injured people; one third children.

So the powers that be; primarily the Red Cross; decided that tarps would be the answer. While some staff were and are on the ground in Haiti the decisions are made elsewhere.

As noted on this blog by a representative of the American Red Cross (ARC) hundreds of thousands of Haitians made homeless had been provided shelter.


I dug into the numbers. 560,000 tarps to house 1.5 million homeless. 60,000 tents.

I pressed and finally got someone who actually had some numbers.

The site surveys by the shelter cluster tell us that between 3 and 5 tarps are required to produce a viable shelter. There are other components: the shelter cluster tells people they need to access local resources to build a frame for the tarp. No floor of course and forget keep mosquitoes out.

So the media relations folks at the ARC say the population has been served above the 90% level.

Bullshit twice. Take a look at this recommended shelter construction picture. It is helpfully written in Creole.

Imagine you are a mid-30s single parent with one elderly parent to care for. Of the five people in your family group one has significant trauma from the earthquake perhaps an amputation. The children have been living in the dirt four the past five months. The job you counted on to provide money to buy food disappeared 12 January. Most of the food aid to the camps has stopped. Water is hard to find. Everyone is sick. Depression? You can not even imagine. Every day the struggle is to find food and water for your family. Dry clothes are a thing of fantasy because it has been raining for two months. And the people responsible for dispensing the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid that the world donated tell you to do the following:

1. Find open space of about 200 square feet.
2. Find four or five tarps.
3. Locate structural lumber to build a frame.
4. Locate a shovel
5. Locate various fastening items such as clips; ropes; hammer; nails
6. Build a frame that is properly cross braced.
7. Build a peak roof on the frame.
8. Properly attache tarps to the frame for side walls.
9. Put the roof on the structure (guess you need a ladder)
10. Assure that all materials are firmly attached to withstand torrential downpours and high winds.
11. Find mosquito repellent because even if the thing stands up you can't secure it against bugs.

Do all that while trying simply to survive. A good tent cost $ 500 and will house ten people with stand up headroom; a waterproof floor; ventilation via screened windows. The citizens of the United States donated $ 400,000,000. Of which over $ 300,000,000 remains unspent. Enough to buy 600,000 ten person tents that at half occupancy could hold three million people.

The Red Cross would rather keep the money in the bank and turn out this sort of drivel. No awareness of the real situation on the ground. No sympathy to the victims. Just bureaucratic crap that some think tank put together in their air conditioned office in Geneva or Melbourne or Washington. This is so shameful it approaches criminal liability.

With no further ado here is the shelter cluster's recommendation on how to shelter yourself in Haiti. Let's all build one of these so we can live in sympathy with Haiti eh. Yeah that won't happen in my lifetime.

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I welcome comments, questions or anything anyone wishes to post on the situation in Haiti.