Wednesday marks the one year commemoration of the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing over 230,000 people. One year later, CHF has completed 4,500 transitional shelters in Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Cabaret, delivering housing to more than 22,500 Haitians. Most shelters are designed for the average Haitian family size of five. Through funding from USAID/OFDA, as well as support from corporations and the public, CHF plans to meet its goal of 5,000 shelters by February, which will offer safe housing to 30,000 people affected by the earthquake.
CHF has been an innovator in transitional shelter development for since Hurricane Mitch in 1998. They have developed shelters for use in the aftermath of natural disasters in Peru and Indonesia, for example, and for displaced people in Colombia. The scale of the disaster in Haiti has presented new challenges, and CHF has brought all of its experience to bear in putting together an innovative series of shelter solutions.
“CHF International has been an important partner in establishing transitional shelter and emergency shelter for people in Haiti,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stated at the Helping Shelter Haiti launch in March 2010. “I had the opportunity to visit a CHF program that provided jobs to Haitians…to start clearing rubble, clearing roads, and rebuilding their communities. The opportunity to witness that first hand is really amazing.”
CHF’s timber frame shelters are designed to withstand storms, rain, and earthquakes, and are designed to last three to four years, though in some cases have been used far longer. CHF uses imported wood, recycled local steel roofs, and special plastic to insulate and protect the inhabitants, as well as have mosquito shielded ventilation. Each shelter costs around $1,000 to construct.
In addition to CHF’s timber frame shelters, CHF has for the first time begun using light gauge steel shelters, primarily in Leogane, which are of similar cost. Steel shelters have a life span of 30-40 years and can become the core structure of a brick, plastic or concrete home. CHF’s steel shelters are hurricane and earthquake resistant, portable, and durable.
CHF has been able to build so many shelters because they have focused not on building camps, but on returning Haitians to their original communities and maintaining community cohesion. CHF demolishes damaged homes and builds shelters in their place. By keeping communities together, crime and violence are reduced and people are able to continue the job they had before. This is at the core of CHF’s vision of community-based development.
Outside of shelter development, CHF is employing Cash for Work teams comprised of Haitians to help demolish damaged structures and clear rubble from key roads, canals, public buildings, and schools. By January 2011, CHF had removed 264,000 cubic meters of debris from hundreds of major roads, canals, schools and other public buildings. Since the earthquake, CHF has employed over 15,000 Haitians in rubble removal, for about 20 days each.
Since 2006, CHF's team has been undertaking the largest USAID-funded infrastructure rehabilitation and job creation programs in Haiti, and has focused many of its efforts on repairing vital infrastructure damaged in the 2008 tropical storm season.