Issues of Housing in Haiti

Displaced victims building their own shelter outside of a Habitat for Humanity development

Disasters are devastating events that can affect the lives of victims long after they have occurred. In the documentary we viewed in class, titled “Shigeru Ban: an Architect for Emergencies,” we were able to get a glimpse at how disaster relief housing can play a role in the recovery process. The film depicted the design and the assembly of temporary shelters for victims that were displaced by the 1999 earthquake in Kaynasli, Turkey. Despite being simple structures made of paper tubes, the humble shelters became comfortable homes to people that had had been displaced. This prompted me to look into what has happened since the earthquake in Haiti and how the Haitian victims have fared.

What I found was a recent newspaper article in the New York Times that details the ongoing plight of many Haitians two years after the tragic earthquake. Although Haiti received billions of dollars in aid, there is still a lack of safe and stable housing for all of the victims that were displaced. One reason behind this is the unequal distribution of this aid. The system is inefficient and favors certain victims over others, leaving the poorest of the poor to live in conditions that are unsuitable for habitation. The money that is spent is also being poorly allocated into solutions such as wooden transitional shelters, dubbed T-shelters, which are not designed to last for more than several years. H. Kit Miyamoto, a seismic engineer working in Haiti since the earthquake describes these shelters as “mainly made up of wood, and, in this climate, they will be eaten by termites and rot in three to five years. All the money spent on T-shelters will be melted away.”

I find it disturbing that despite humanitarian aid and housing programs such as Habitat for Humanity that there is still such a great demand for shelter. It was a high-profile disaster and received a lot of global attention but still remains to be an issue to those who remain displaced. What strategies can we implement so that the aid can be distributed more equally and effectively? I believe that in time the inefficiencies in the system will be dealt with and that eventually there will be a greater sense of equity among those who were affected by the earthquake. I also think that there is a lot we can learn from disasters such as this and that we should really look into preventative strategies that would mitigate the effects of disasters such as this before they occur.

Displaced victim in front of her new home in a housing development



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