Nine months after the devastating earthquake on Haiti, rebuilding is underway in rural areas, however the situation in the capital Port-au- Prince remains difficult. Alain Geiger, Swiss Solidarity project head went to the location to assess the situation for himself.
We remember the horrific images from Haiti. Port-au-Prince lay in ruins, not one stone was left standing on another. Are there now any rays of hope?
Yes, there are. I recall a meeting with one woman who was made a paraplegic by the earthquake. In the meantime she’s learned how to get around in a wheelchair thanks to the help of Handicap International. Despite the immense problems, the people of Haiti are demonstrating a huge amount of determination and are looking forward. We can help them in this and also give them future prospects. Here I think of the members of a family that I saw in a rural area; they now have a roof over their heads again.
How is rebuilding progressing?
With great difficulty, above all in the capital. Here in Switzerland, it’s hard to imagine the situation. The first problem involves clearing away enormous mountains of rubble. No one knows where to go with the around 20 million cubic metres of debris. And once this has finally been cleared, there are other problems to solve. Most people living in the poorer districts have no documents and so amongst other things, this also means clarification of ownership. This task cannot be tackled by the relief organizations and the government seems to be relatively inactive in this field. As a result of these difficulties, Swiss Solidarity is concentrating its aid in the capital mainly in the social sphere, for example on helping children. Swiss Solidarity and Terre des hommes Switzerland are erecting temporary classrooms so that children can return to school. Street children and orphans are regularly receiving something to eat.
How do things look outside the city, in the rural areas?
Here things are rather less complicated. Swiss Solidarity is supporting two rebuilding projects by Caritas and the Swiss Red Cross. We are examining other projects by HEKS and Medair that involve the repair of damaged timber-built houses.
How long will rebuilding last?
Rebuilding will take years. It is moving forwards in small steps but it is moving forwards, and in the right direction. The over 65 million francs donated for Haiti are being used for Haiti and these donations are really helping.