Friday, April 30, 2010

Thinking Outside the Tent

C. Setchell, a USAID/OFDA Shelter, Settlements, and Hazard Mitigation Advisor, wrote an article in November 2008 on why tents are not suitable shelters in a post-disaster environment.

He writes, "tents are useful when there are absolutely no other shelter options, but this is hardly ever the case, as disasters and conflicts rarely generate complete and total destruction of permanent structures." In the most recent USAID fact sheet on the Haiti earthquake, 32,000 structures have been inspected in habitability assessments. 44 percent deemed safe for habitation, 32 percent could be made safe with repairs, and 24 percent are unsafe and require demolition. Relief agencies have reached approximately 100 percent of the target population requiring emergency shelter assistance. Typically, this is in the form of two pieces of plastic sheeting per household, which is a more flexible solution than tents and more adaptable to a family's specific needs. Setchell also notes that the "total cost of tent provision is often greater than [...] salvage-based options," and that because of the small size of tents, it is "understandable, then, why people get sick, why protection issues emerge, or why psycho-social issues emerge when they have to live in undersized tents for more than a short period of time."

With more than 2.1 million people displaced and 1,300 spontaneous settlements throughout Haiti, the goal now is to repair damaged structures and move displaced people back into more permanent structures. This is especially vital as the rainy season commences in May and hurricane season arrives in June.

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