by Lorraine Taggart in Haiti
Imagine having to live in a tent under the sun and rain for almost two years. Imagine having to sleep with one eye open, because the tent in which you lived offered no safety and at any moment thieves could rip it open and take all of your belongings.
This is the life that Lucienne Bounba lived since the January 12, 2010 earthquake wreaked havoc on the city of Port-au-Prince and demolished thousands of homes. Caught in the street when the earthquake happened, Lucienne found herself without a home to go back to and was forced to find a new place to settle. Her search led her to the camp in Mais Gate where many other families in the same predicament, had begun to set up tents.
To survive she relied on friends and family members who sometimes gave her money or food. Her children, struggling with problems of their own after the quake, couldn’t take her in.
Two years later, up to half a million vulnerable people are estimated to still be living in camps, with reports suggesting up to 80 per cent were renters before the earthquake. But with limited income generating activities available many people have no way of affording their rent now. The rental system in Haiti often requires a down payment for six months or a year; an impossibility for a camp resident who has lost everything in the earthquake and has no way of making a living.
To support people to leave the camps the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is providing resettlement grants with a series of different options for families to choose from, such as receiving rental support or assistance to move to the provinces. In addition - and to ensure people can afford to pay their rent in future years - livelihoods support is being offered to help people meet their immediate needs and to restore their income generating ability. Through this programme, 5,000 people have been assisted to leave the camps, with 1,000 of those opting to go to the provinces.
In camp Mais Gate, where Lucienne and her family lived, the IFRC has registered over 2,000 families, and most have chosen to leave with the support of rental grants. The camp is one of many the IFRC is working in, and forms a large part of the Governments 16/6 project which aims to support the closure of six camps in Port-au-Prince and renovate sixteen neighbourhoods.
On December 12, 2011 Lucienne finally moved out of camp Mais Gate and into her new home. She says she feels much safer now that she is able to sleep behind locked doors once again. And as her living conditions have improved, she has also started selling housewares in front of her new home, an activity that she was forced to abandon as a result of the earthquake.
“I lost all my merchandise during the earthquake,” she says. “Now I finally feel like I can live again.”