Cablegate: Haiti Post-Earthquake Usaid/Dart Overview of Shelter And


DE RUEHPU #0100/01 0290243
O 290221Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary. As part of the relief and recovery response, USAID's
Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) is
advocating for a shelter and settlements sector strategy that
features a range of interventions, including host family and
community support, transitional shelter programs, planned
settlements, and disaster risk reduction programming within and
outside Port-au-Prince. On January 28, a USG delegation headed by
U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth H. Merten met with President Rene
Preval to highlight the need for a broader shelter approach to
complement the use of tents in order to address the extensive
shelter needs in the country. During the meeting, the USAID
Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) outlined the need
for both a shelter and settlement focus looking at land issues,
disaster risk reduction, and a regional focus, not limited to the
capital, and the critical need for rubble and debris removal as a
pre-cursor and concurrent activity to shelter interventions. The
USAID/DART reports that President Preval was very receptive to the
multiple track shelter strategy presented and acknowledged the need
to supplement the call for tents with other shelter materials. End

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Post-Earthquake Shelter and Settlements Situation

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2. In the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake, the provision of
shelter and settlements assistance has emerged as a priority need
in the metropolitan Port-au-Prince and other affected areas,
including Leogane. According to U.N. estimates, the earthquake
affected 3 million people, with upper estimates suggesting that
between 1.2 and 1.5 million require shelter and settlements
assistance. Prior to the earthquake, approximately 70 percent of
households were renters, suggesting significant need for shelter
and settlements sector interventions.

3. The impact of the earthquake on Haiti's economic, social,
cultural, and political hub - Port-au-Prince - and environs
requires "thinking outside the tent" with regard to integrating
humanitarian and development assistance in a rapid and effective
manner. Further, the earthquake's impacts are also national in
scope, thus humanitarian action will likely have national
development implications, suggesting a need to merge humanitarian
action with development thinking and resources to accelerate

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Best Practices in Shelter and Settlements Approaches

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4. Humanitarian community approaches to shelter and settlements
sector assistance in recent tsunami- and earthquake-affected
regions of the world, which are relevant to the current situation
in Haiti, have included preferences for:

- Plastic sheeting over tents to permit flexible application of
materials, enhanced protection from inclement weather, and
adherence to minimally adequate humanitarian community guidelines;

- Assistance provided on or near pre-event locations where safe,
over creation of camps, to reduce displacement and dislocation

- Earthquake-resistant transitional shelter, over pre-fabricated
structures, to promote safer, more cost-effective shelter that
generates beneficial economic impacts in disaster-affected
economies; and

- Pre-reconstruction activities, over the larger and longer-term
reconstruction effort, to reduce the complexity of that effort for
the Government of Haiti (GoH).


Shelter and Settlements Strategy


5. As part of the Haiti emergency response, USAID/OFDA will
provide adequate, habitable, safe, and secure shelter to the
earthquake-affected population, in accordance with Sphere standards
and USAID/OFDA humanitarian assistance guidelines. (Note: The
Sphere Project was launched in 1997 by the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC), U.N., non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), and donors to develop a set of universal minimum standards
for humanitarian assistance and thereby improve the quality of
assistance provided to disaster-affected persons and to enhance the
accountability of humanitarian agencies. End note.)

6. USAID/OFDA and its implementing partners will implement the
shelter and settlements sector strategy in collaboration with the
GoH and the international community. In particular, USAID/OFDA
worked closely with the Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI) Cluster's
technical advisor to draft the cluster's shelter strategy.
USAID/OFDA intends to support implementing partners in locations
throughout the country where the earthquake-affected population is
living, regardless of whether the location was directly affected by
the earthquake. USAID/OFDA's strategy features reliance on
salvaged materials, self-help capacity, and social and economic
networks, and informs recovery efforts with knowledge of practical
earthquake-resistant construction measures. The strategy will be
linked to longer-term shelter recovery programs, livelihood
generation efforts, and efforts to promote disaster risk reduction,
including seismic, landslide, floods, and fire hazards.


Shelter and Settlements Interventions


7. Based on initial assessments and preliminary information to
date, USAID/OFDA will fund implementing partner programs that
include some of the following components: assistance to host
families and communities; transitional shelter assistance;
transitional settlements assistance; debris removal, salvaging, and
disposal; and disaster risk reduction activities.

8. Preliminary information indicates that more than 230,000 people
have received GoH support to travel from Port-au-Prince to
departmental cities and other outlying areas. Some are staying
with host families, while others have moved into spontaneous
settlements, perhaps as a sheltering solution while in transit to
stay with family. Host families and communities need assistance in
sheltering affected family and friends. Assistance to host
families and communities may include provision of plastic sheeting
to help expand or repair existing shelter structures; shelter
repair or building materials; and provision of basic necessities
for the migrants and host families alike to prevent tension between
displaced and host families.

9. Transitional shelter assistance could include the provision of
plastic sheeting, shelter repair kits, and additional material, as
appropriate, for displaced households in Port-au-Prince,
earthquake-affected communities in outlying areas, and perhaps even
as hosting support. Plastic sheeting is preferred over tents and
pre-fabricated structures because of its flexibility, relatively
low cost, familiarity among the affected population, and potential
to create minimally adequate covered living space. Safe,
habitable, transitional shelter solutions can be created amidst, or
near, damaged or destroyed structures on safe sites. This
approach, commonly referred to as "shelter-in-place" or "one warm
room", would allow people to stay in pre-event locations, if
desired and deemed safe, and would be a critical means of "jump
starting" the longer-term rebuilding process. Transitional shelter
assistance would also reduce the need to create camps, lessening
displacement and security concerns.

10. As of January 25, the International Organization for Migration
(IOM) and Emergency Shelter and NFI Cluster members had identified
591 spontaneous displaced persons settlements, of which 345 sites
with an estimated population of 692,000 individuals have been
assessed. Transitional settlements assistance may include provision
of longer-term shelter - as opposed to emergency shelter - for the
displaced, and provision of essential services, such as water,
sanitation, electricity, and basic education to help normalize
people's lives. Creation of planned humanitarian settlements -
more than a camp, but less than a complete community - on vacant
and underutilized land in Port-au-Prince and other communities
should be considered to provide shelter for families who have lost
everything and who lived in locations where rebuilding is not

11. Debris removal, salvaging, and disposal is a critical
pre-cursor activity to implementing many shelter and settlements
interventions, as it increases land supply available for sheltering
activities and can reduce safety and environmental concerns. This
can be achieved, in part, through a range of cash-for-work
activities to clean and remove rubble. In addition, salvaging
usable building materials, where possible and safe, will provide
the displaced population with additional shelter materials to
complement materials such as plastic sheeting, metal roofing
sheets, and tools.

12. Shelter and settlements sector interventions will incorporate
earthquake-resistant design, training in earthquake-resistant
construction methods, and public information campaigns in how to
"Build Back Better" in areas prone to seismic, flood, wind, and
fire hazards, featuring structural and non-structural risk
reduction initiatives. Previous experience elsewhere indicates
that earthquake-resistant construction can be safer and more
cost-effective than many conventional sheltering interventions and
should be promoted as part of response activities in Haiti.




13. The challenges posed in responding to earthquake-generated
shelter and settlements needs are many, including:

- Land supply in Port-au-Prince and other areas has been
effectively reduced, as the earthquake generated rubble fields of
considerable size, which have rendered the land underneath
unusable. The rubble fields need to be reduced and removed to

facilitate shelter and settlements and other humanitarian

- Identifying available land, in particular relatively
hazard-free land, that can be used for both humanitarian and
development assistance purposes is a critical issue. Legal and
urban planning issues will need to be identified and addressed to
begin the process of reducing disaster risk in Port-au-Prince, thus
contributing to reducing the number of people located in
hazard-prone areas.

- Bridging the gulf between humanitarian and development
assistance communities that typically exists in post-disaster
shelter responses is critical in reducing the prevalence of
spontaneous reconstruction. USAID/OFDA will work with USAID/Haiti
on how best to facilitate the transition from response to

- Information on the pre-earthquake housing and land market
structure is critical to better understand the affected
populations' needs. Some of the information needed, for example,
includes percentage of renters vs. owners, informal vs. formal
shares, estimates of likely earthquake impacts, map and data
inventories of vacant and underutilized land, and land tenure
status. It is possible that rental share of the housing market was
considerable pre-event - potentially as great as 70 percent -
suggesting the need to provide longer-term shelter to renters,
perhaps in new locations.

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President Preval Receptive to Broader Shelter Approach

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14. On January 28, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth H. Merten,
Unified Coordinator for Disaster Response in Haiti Ambassador Lewis
Lucke, USAID/DART Leader Tim Callaghan, and USAID/DART Shelter and
Settlements Advisor Charles Setchell met with President Rene Preval
and some of his Cabinet members. The USAID/DART shelter and
settlements advisor highlighted the need for a broader shelter
approach to complement the use of tents in order to address the
extensive shelter needs. The proposed approach includes host
family support, transitional shelter programs, and planned
settlements within and outside Port-au-Prince. In particular,
USAID/DART staff emphasized the need to support ongoing
self-recovery efforts of affected populations, who prefer to remain
on or near their property with appropriate transitional shelter
kits comprising plastic sheeting and framing materials.

15. In addition, the USAID/DART shelter and settlements advisor
outlined the need for both a shelter and settlement focus looking
at land issues, disaster risk reduction, and a regional focus, not
limited to the capital, and the critical need for rubble and debris
removal as a pre-cursor and concurrent activity to shelter
interventions. USAID/DART staff highlighted that shelter programs
featuring salvaged materials, local labor inputs, and local
materials - to the extent possible - are capable of generating
significant economic benefits to advance recovery.

16. According to the USAID/DART, President Preval was very
receptive to the multiple track shelter strategy presented and
acknowledged the need to supplement the call for tents with other
shelter materials. The President requested a follow-up meeting on
January 29 to discuss in further detail the composition of
transitional shelter kits with plastic sheeting to provide a
covered living space. The USAID/DART has requested that IOM, as
the Shelter and NFI Cluster lead, prepare a presentation for the

GoH on non-tent shelter interventions.


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