Canapé Vert is a neighborhood of Port au Prince, and this picture taken by my husband in the summer of 2008 shows how people built a slum on the side of the hill.
I searched the Internet, and found this picture of Canapé Vert taken after the earthquake, here. Rubbles and piles of concrete. More rubbles, and more piles of concrete. One of my sisters-in-law lives at the top at that hill, in a Catholic community. Their compound was destroyed almost completely (it seems that only the small chapelle did not suffer any damage.) They have been living outside for the past four weeks, along with some 3000 people.
A friend of mine in New York, told me how their community has been organizing charity events to raise money to send to a priest who opened a school in Port au Prince, a few years back. My immediate concern was : please, tell them to not start building a concrete school with that money. Building with concrete in areas susceptible to earthquakes (and studies clearly indicate that there will be more) will only mean more deaths – provided that the Haitian people, after what they just went through, accept to actually enter and live in concrete buildings. My husband tells me that people have taken to sleeping in the streets. Rich or poor, when the sun sets, people take out mattresses and settle down in the streets for the night.
So, forget about concrete. It is possible to use bamboo to build houses and schools and basically anything : bamboo resists better to earthquakes, and it is environmentally friendly. When he left India, my husband had already gotten in touch with a company that built houses and schools in the Andaman islands, after the earthquake in 2002, and they said they could provide 10 000 schools within the next six months. Let’s see if this gets implemented. Of course, this also means planting more and more bamboos in Haiti. It will take time. But it would also help with the deforestation problem (as seen here.)
In the meantime, people need food, water, shelter and medical care… Many of the refugee camps have no management, no help coming their way (and that includes the camp in Canapé Vert). So many people are working seven days a week, there, in really difficult conditions, but the magnitude of what needs to be done is such…
… and it’s now been five weeks since the earthquake.