Appeals for tents as president moves under the canvas
Published 27/01/2010 | 05:00
The dusty soccer field lined with spacious tents is an oasis for earthquake survivors among Haiti's homeless sheltering in acres of squalid camps.
Competition for the canvas homes has boiled into arguments and machete fights, a sign of the desperation felt by the hundreds of thousands of people without homes struggling for shelter in this wrecked city. Haiti's president has asked the world for 200,000 tents and says he will sleep in one himself.
Fenela Jacobs, (39), lives in a (13-by-13-foot) abode provided by the Britain-based Islamic Relief Worldwide. She says the group offered her two tents for 21 survivors but she ended up putting everyone in one tent after people threatened to burn both down if she didn't give a tent up.
Still, she says living in the 6-foot-high khaki home with a paisley interior is better than the makeshift shelters crafted from bed sheets propped on wooden sticks where her family was living before.
"It's a lot more comfortable," Jacobs said, though she added it gets really hot inside the tent in Cazo, a Port-au-Prince neighborhood hidden in the hills behind the international airport.
Tents are in desperately short supply following the 7.0-magnitude quake on January 12 that killed at least 150,000 people. The global agency supplying tents said it already had 10,000 stored in Haiti and at least 30,000 more would be arriving. But that "is unlikely to address the extensive shelter needs," the International Organisation for Migration stressed.
The organisation had estimated 100,000 family-sized tents were needed. But the UN says up to one million people require shelter, and President Rene Preval issued an urgent appeal Monday calling for 200,000 tents and urging that the aircraft carrying them be given urgent landing priority at Port-au-Prince airport.
In solidarity with earthquake victims, Preval plans to move into a tent home on the manicured lawn of his collapsed National Palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, Tourism Minister Patrick Delatour told said. "It is a decision that the president has made himself," Delatour added.
The secretary-general of the Organisation of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, is planning to visit Haiti to study relief efforts.
The Haitian government and international groups were preparing a bigger tent city on Port-au-Prince's outskirts.
Brazilian army engineers have cleared and levelled 12 acres north of the city, planned as the first of more than a half-dozen sites that officials hope will shelter the displaced before the onset of spring rains and summer hurricanes.