New U.N. Efforts Aim To Help Haitians Obtain ‘Secure Housing’

“The head of the U.N. mission in Haiti Edmond Mulet unveiled new efforts Tuesday to provide secure housing to thousands of people made homeless by January’s devastating earthquake,” Agence France-Presse reports.

One aspect of the plan “would offer assistance to homeowners, enabling them to rehabilitate houses that might have been damaged but are still basically sound,” the news service writes. Mulet said the U.N. is “in the process” of identifying eligible houses. “After having supplied tents to the majority of quake victims, it’s now time to get on with the next phase – providing more solid and secure homes to people now that the rainy season is here and hurricane season is on the way,” he said.

Imogen Wall, a U.N. spokesperson for humanitarian affairs, said approximately half a million people left Port-au-Prince after the January earthquake. “Some of them have come back, some have come back temporarily. Some haven’t come back but are thinking about it as their houses are assessed. We know that a lot of people will never go back,” she said, adding that about 40 percent of the city’s houses are safe, and about half of those are occupied. 

Wall said current efforts are focused on getting people out of tent camps and into temporary wooden structures that can face the hurricane season. “This is our key challenge right now. This is a very congested city and transitional shelter needs space,” she said. “Finding the capacity to clear the rubble from where you could put buildings up is also a major challenge” (Berenstein, 5/18). 

In related news, the Miami Herald examines how the country’s mango industry is attempting to rebuild. “One of the few bright spots even before the 7.0-magnitude quake, mangoes and the peasants who grow them have become key in helping put revenue back in this quake-shattered economy. … The momentum to help Haiti’s mango industry begun well before the quake, but has picked up since,” the newspaper writes, noting a recent Coca-Cola initiative. The article details challenges to the industry’s growth and reports on current efforts to expand the industry (Charles, 5/18).

Inter Press Service reports that the nonprofit GHESKIO, which was “founded in Haiti nearly three decades ago to fight … AIDS,” has been awarded the 2010 Gates Award for Global Health. Although the earthquake significantly damaged the organization’s headquarters, “[w]ithin a week of the earthquake, the group was able to ensure that 95 percent of those under care [for] HIV and tuberculosis were returned to their life-saving medications and care despite the destruction,” IPS writes. 

“For years, the group has provided ground-breaking clinical service, research and training, which has effectively prevented the spread of the HIV/AIDS and other related illnesses, said the Global Health Council, which announced the award at a symposium in Geneva Monday,” according to the article (Shen, 5/18).

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