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In downtown Port au Prince, photo taken by Vera Kreuwels

For the last 7 months, I have been working in Haiti on a large housing reconstruction and urban rehabilitation project. During this time, I have  had a good chance to ‘scope out the scene’ and understand some of the dynamics at play… I have made an effort, for obvious reasons, not to dwell too much on actual projects – particularly my own – but seeing the previous/current situation with regard to the large tropical storm, turned Hurricane, turned Frankestorm, I will allow myself to make a couple of comments on the situation in Haiti.

A little over a month ago, Isaac hit Haiti- and only some days ago, we got a visit from Sandy. Yet, it is important to point out that Isaac and Sandy, as well as their results/consequences, are not different to others that happen on almost a monthly basis here. Every single year-and particularly during this time- every single month-disasters reoccur. Fortunate enough to live in a ‘better’ part of town, I was not harmed by the strong rain and water; however, others in different parts of Port au Prince and the rest country truly suffered- strong floods, cholera waves, lost shelters/houses…

The following video is a good reflection of the situation in the country during and after the effects of Sandy:

Every time there is a strong rain or storm happening, there are emergency meetings that take place to reassess the damage, donors appear, relief projects begin- new tarps, shelters are given out, cholera prevention kits…  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to be sarcastic with these projects as I think they do serve a purpose and are necessary, but they are really nothing but a band aid on a large wound. At the bottom of the issue is a much deeper and complex problem to solve- one that cannot be solely ‘reactive.’

To give you a quick background, Port au Prince (PaP) is a city where most of its infrastructure is either decaying or lacking. There is no sewage system in the city nor sufficient black water treatment facilities. Water management equates rivers flowing down the streets when it rains, and water is such a scarce resource that projections state Haiti’s ‘water’ resources will deplete in the next 15 years. There are a minimal number of public squares in the city, and roads as well as other basic infrastructure are rarely maintained- lamp posts in the middle of the street due to a past street expansion, a tree in the middle of the road, large craters and enormous road bumps are a regular occurrence…

The real emphasis all Sandys should create should not  result in discussion of missing tarps or cholera kits, but to stronger long term, planning solutions aiming to resolve the lack of adequate infrastructure, a lack of control in urban development, a missing integrated vision for the urban development of the city/country, as well as a lack of alternatives and employment opportunities… One has to be ‘reactive’, but it is necessary to be ‘preventive’ alongside- and the latter is what is usually missing in the equation here.

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