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THURSDAY, APRIL 11:

Hurricane Sandy wreaked widespread devastation upon New York but also left a trail of destruction through many islands in the Caribbean. Its timing could not have been worse either. Not only did Tropical Storm Isaac strike just a couple of months before but Haiti was, and still is, recovering from the 2010 earthquake that left over two million homeless and led to a widespread outbreak of cholera and food shortages. This complex environment made it challenging for the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) that assessed the need following Sandy.

"Working through partners who have thorough knowledge of the country’s geography and good understanding of Haiti’s long-term recovery, was a more appropriate method of working," said SRT member James Webb (UK). "We decided to work with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Handicap International (HI), which continue to distribute ShelterBoxes prepositioned in the capital Port-au-Prince to families in need."  

Jean-Luc Grossoleil is the Chef de Mission in Haiti for Hl: 

"After Sandy, the majority of families were hosted by neighbors or relatives while others tried to build small shelters made with palm branches. These families, isolated and facing hard living conditions, have been targeted in priority. Through the support of ShelterBox, HI distributed tents to households having lost their homes and belongings. 

Return to their land 

"While much remains to be done to help these people in depth, this timely assistance has allowed them to retrieve some of their dignity. After the distribution, a significant number of beneficiaries expressed their relief as they were also able to return to their land." 

One beneficiary said, "When Sandy hit there was heavy rain and sudden gusts of wind. After three hours my house began to crack. My wife and I began to pray as our children cried. We wanted to call for help but we didn’t have a mobile phone. At the end of the night, a big part of our house collapsed and we lost five children and some animals. 

"We [ten people] were forced to live under a tarpaulin for several weeks before we received a ShelterBox. We now have a safe place for sleeping every night and to recover a normal life."  

Rebuild 

HI distributed 300 ShelterBox tents supporting almost 1,600 people where 78% had homes completely destroyed and the others were heavily damaged. Almost two thirds are female-headed households, which suggests that men are either working, trying to find work, or have left their families. Only 11% of the beneficiaries have an income. These vulnerable families now have shelter giving them safety and protection and a chance to rebuild their lives. 

Humanitarian agencies, including ShelterBox, IOM and HI, in collaboration with Haitian institutions and civil society, have helped improve the lives of over 1.5 million Haitians in the last three years. They have ensured adequate services to the 1.5 million displaced by the quake and helped return or relocate 77% of these people out of camps. The number of people newly affected by the cholera epidemic has been considerably reduced and mortality rates lowered to 1.2%. National capacities to prepare for and respond to future emergencies have also been partially strengthened. But there are still further shelter needs, and until they are met, HI and IOM will continue to distribute ShelterBoxes to displaced families.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4:

A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) is returning from Haiti after two weeks of assessing the need for emergency shelter and working with partners to coordinate distributions across the country. 

Liaising with Handicap International, SRT members James Webb (UK) and Josh Mohr (US) recently traveled to Fond Verrettes, an area near the Dominican Republic border, where an entire town was covered in rubble after Hurricane Sandy caused a flash flood that tore it apart. 

"The damage caused was unimaginable," said James. "The lower level of the town was under at least a foot of rubble, resulting in hundreds of homes being destroyed or damaged."  

The SRT met with members of the community who described how they had been evacuated to a local shelter when the hurricane hit but after leaving found they had no homes to return to. 

"The families have lost everything and have been through so much." 

The team also accompanied Handicap International to Babaco, a community in nearby Ganthier, which had also been hit by the Hurricane. 

"Our partnership with Handicap International has been hugely valuable," explained James. "We’ve worked with them several times since the 2010 earthquake and they had a number of boxes in storage, which together, we distributed to families already identified as vulnerable in Babaco." 

Handicap International distributed a number of items to the community, including water purification tablets, hygiene kits, and ShelterBoxes, which the team demonstrated to the families. 

"The families had been living in the local school in cramped conditions. The ShelterBox tents will provide them with somewhere to call their own while they start to rebuild their lives,"said James. 

While in the village, the SRT met with Banave Simeon, a representative for the community: 

"When the water was moving, we heard someone crying out for help. When we arrived at their home, everything was gone."  

More ShelterBoxes will continue to be distributed to displaced families by Handicap International over the coming weeks. 

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26:

The ShelterBox Response Team has returned after working with Handicap Internaitonal (HI) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) to asses the need. ShelterBoxes have been sent to be distributed by HI and IOM to affcted families.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19:

ShelterBox has been working across the Caribbean to assess the need for emergency shelter following destructive Hurricane Sandy. 

The catastrophe has been just one of many to hit the small nation of Haiti in recent years. In 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean island, leaving an estimated one million people homeless, many of whom are still living in camps, and in August, Tropical Storm Isaac wreaked havoc across the south of the country. As a result of these disasters, the ongoing aid effort, and recent flooding in the north, the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) in country is being challenged with a complex set of circumstances. 

"The situation in Haiti is unlike anything I’ve seen before," said James Webb, SRT volunteer. "Following Hurricane Sandy, there are reports of over 30,000 homes destroyed, damaged or flooded, and now, heavy rains have resulted in extreme flooding in the far north of the country."  

The team has been liaising with several partner agencies, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Handicap International, to identify where the greatest need for ShelterBoxes is. 

"Thanks to ShelterBox’s forward planning, we already have 448 boxes in Haiti. The real challenge will be ensuring we don’t negatively affect the ongoing, long-term recovery of the country. Two and a half years after the earthquake, tents should be a last resort for families as the government and humanitarian community are reluctant to see ‘tent cities' spring up again. We’ve been working on a long term project with IOM to try and find a more permanent solution for families and we don’t want to affect that continued work."  

Hurricane Sandy and the recent flooding have also resulted in a new cholera outbreak and food insecurity, with an estimated 1.5 million people affected by food shortages after the disasters destroyed crops. 

"The situation is horrendous. In a country where the population has been through so much, there is an overwhelming desire to make the best of a bad situation but it’s hard when there’s one crisis after another. We’re surrounded by extreme poverty."  

The team is traveling to the north of the country today and will start assessments immediately. If ShelterBoxes are identified as an appropriate form of aid, the team will work with ShelterBox partners to begin distributions as soon as possible. 

ShelterBox has also been distributing blankets to Sandy survivors in New York and New Jersey in the USA in support of rescue and recovery efforts following the disaster. Meanwhile an SRT in Cuba found there to be no need for emergency shelter. 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9:

Around 18,000 homes have been flooded, damaged or destroyed in Haiti, according to the latest United Nations figures from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Low-lying communities in western Haiti that were still recovering from damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaac in August are the worst affected areas, according to various reports.

Some villages have been destroyed in the floods and there is a threat of cholera spreading due to unsanitary conditions. 

A ShelterBox Response Team is traveling to Haiti to assess the need. back