Looking beyond the tragedy: Moving back home after four years

Published: 10 January 2014 11:08 CET

Sibrien Gaston’s home was badly damaged during the January 2010 earthquake. Having nowhere else to go he found refuge in a place known to the general population as Sanatorium, a hospital that treats people with tuberculosis.

Many homes in the community of Carrefour Feuilles were either damaged or completely destroyed during the earthquake and the aftermath resulted in many families living in tents in the Sanatorium, as well as in other open spaces in the community. Many pitched tents not too far from where their homes stood in order to keep watch over any belongings that they had left.

In 2011, the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in collaboration with the Haiti Red Cross Society implemented an Integrated Neighbourhood Approach (INA) programme in Carrefour Feuilles in order to assist the community in becoming safer and more resilient. The needs and priorities of the residents were identified through meetings with the neighbourhood committees, community leaders and beneficiaries.

Sibrien’s home was one of the many homes in Carrefour Feuilles that were adapted to be more resistant to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The walls were reinforced, the roof was replaced, and a new toilet and shower installed. A new room was also added to accommodate the number of people living in the household.

This 65-year-old man has not worked since earthquake struck. He lives with his four children who have not been able to find work. The only financial support that they receive is from relatives overseas that sometimes send money. This is often just enough to attend to their most basic needs.

The INA programme targeted the most vulnerable people within the community such as single mothers of multiple children as well as the elderly. Since its implementation in June 2011 the INA programme has adapted and repaired over 160 homes that were destroyed or damaged during the earthquake, built 552 square meters of retaining walls, and upgraded or installed sanitation facilities in 18 schools and community buildings.

In addition to this the programme also held training and awareness sessions in community-Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) and participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation trainings (PHAST) to sensitize the population on hygiene issues, cholera prevention, hand washing, waste management and water treatment. Focus group discussions  were held in order to identify the hygiene and sanitation issues existing within the community prior to these awareness sessions taking place. In total 150 people participated in these sessions. Hygiene promotion also took place in schools to teach schoolchildren the importance of proper hygiene.

Now with a new home, Sibrien Gaston can finally begin to look past the tragedy of 12 January 2010 with a little hope.

“I appreciate what the Red Cross has done for me and my family,” he says. “Four years is long time to be without a home.”

Haiti earthquake