Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Better, stronger housing in Haiti

  • FLV Format, 44.3 MB - 5 m 12 s


CIDA and the Canadian Red Cross

One of the biggest challenges facing survivors of Haiti's January 2010 earthquake is shelter—having a safe place to live. After the earthquake, CIDA and other donors helped more than 1.9 million Haitians find emergency shelter - with tarps, tents, and make-shift housing—and they provided food, clean water and health services.

Cleaning up the rubble is one of the first steps to recovery—and there's a lot of it. It's believed that if all the debris from the earthquake in Haiti were collected it would fill a football stadium twelve times over.

Now, CIDA and the Canadian Red Cross are helping Haitians build more permanent shelters—sturdy wooden homes that can withstand both earthquakes and hurricanes with winds up to 240 kilometres per hour. Called transitional or T-shelters, these homes can be moved to new locations if necessary.

I'm Tom Carnegie. I'm the head of the shelter program for the Canadian Red Cross in Haiti and we're standing in front of one of our shelters that we're building in Lafferonay district which is just outside of Leogane. This house is one house of about 70 houses that we built to date in Lafferoney. We have another 60 houses that we've built in Jacmel, with those under construction now, we have almost 150 houses that we have built as the first part of the Canadian Red Cross program in Haiti. As you can see, the house is nearing completion and we're just putting on the metal roofing. These structures are designed to be hurricane-resistant. As you can see, they are braced and they will be receiving plywood on the exterior.

All of our crews are hired from the local communities, our supervisors are hired from the local communities as well if possible. But all together, we have almost 200 local employees working on construction and supervision of our shelters. We put a lot of effort in our training sessions to increase the capacity of local crews so they can accurately build structures to a structural specification and to build up a discipline of work that will help them in their future work after the Canadian Red Cross is finished here.

Another challenge: Seventy to eighty percent of the people who lost their homes don't own the land their homes were on.

On a plot-by-plot basis, once we identify a family as vulnerable and as having a damaged structure that's beyond repair or totally destroyed, we have to negotiate with the owner of the property to get consent to build a shelter for the rental family on that property. We also have to get permission and signing-off by the Mayor. In the end, it's quite a process. Sometimes it takes several weeks just to get one family relocated on their plot.

It is important to note that the funding for the Canadian Red Cross Shelter Program in Haiti is the only reason that we can be here, doing what we are doing, to the extent that we're doing it. To implement a program, to have 7,500 families that have been affected by the earthquake is no small enterprise, and requires millions and millions of dollars. The Canadian public, through the Canadian government and the Canadian International Development Agency, have supplied the funds required to do this program. We are extremely fortunate to be one of the best-funded agencies in Haiti doing this work, and that we have the resources to do what's needed and we don't have to constantly juggle. So, it's a great flexibility that enables us to get what we've done, done up till now, and to project an even bigger and faster response to the earthquake.

[Gisèle Console] I thank God first of all for having saved us during the January 12 earthquake and then for the Red Cross. During the earthquake we lost family and children, my house was crushed. We had to sleep in the fields under a blanket. Thanks to the Canadian Red Cross when it rains during the night, I sleep peacefully.

With CIDA's support, the Canadian Red Cross and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent are building 15,000 earthquake and hurricane-resistant homes.