Red Cross focuses on shelter and livelihoods to restore family life in Delmas

Published: 20 December 2011 16:17 CET

Becky Webb in Haiti

The narrow winding streets of Delmas 30 are home to dozens of families, living in tightly packed houses along the maze of alleyways and streets. The ravine of Delmas provides a staggering backdrop to the community with hillsides piled high with rubbish and debris as far as the eye can see.

Haiti Red Cross Society teams have been working with the local residents for six months, to help them respond to their immediate needs and to establish a community driven programme for the long-term renewal of the area. The immediate priority was the provision of improved shelter; 162 transitional shelters have been built so far, packed into the neighbourhood and adapted to fit the space available.

Marlene Lottee, 42, recently returned to the area with her three children. She said her situation was dire. “I used to live here but after earthquake I ended up living under a tarpaulin in a camp,” she says. “But the camp was on private land and the owner asked us to leave, so I was living next to the street.”

Six months ago Marlene and her family received a transitional shelter and were able to return home. “I moved back in July and this is much better. When I was living under a tarpaulin it was difficult. I couldn’t sleep and when it rained we all got wet,” she says.

Future renovation projects for the neighbourhood include plans to improve drainage and support to clean up the ravine and level out the area, landscaping the space. The project is being closely coordinated with the local authorities and work is scheduled to begin in early 2012. With an estimated completion time of six months, the project will provide work for builders, masons and labourers from the local community.

Marlene says there some obvious additions that would have the greatest impact. “We have lots of problems here we need to fix,” she says. “But the main thing is we need to get latrines, water and electricity.”

As Haiti Red Cross Society teams work with the community to help build these essential services, livelihoods support is also underway through the provision of cash grants and vocational training. Marlene sells foodstuff from outside of her home with spaghetti, cornflakes and cookies all laid out on display. “The business is small, but I feed my children with the money I make,” she says.

“Before the earthquake I had a good livelihood and I’d like to grow the business I have now. I know I can do this, I can make a success of my business.”

Successfully growing this business will be essential for Marlene, who is currently struggling to bring in enough money to support her family. “My two eldest children have always gone to school, but they aren’t able to go this year due to a lack of money. The difficulties I face are the difficulties of life here. Life is hard,” she says.