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Caritas has distributed emergency shelter kits to over 60,000 people since the earthquake happened. Credits: Caritas

Caritas has distributed emergency shelter kits to over 60,000 people since the earthquake happened.
Credits: Caritas

Phenol Estiverne’s home wasn’t reduced to rubble, like many others hit by Haiti’s earthquake, but he still hasn’t returned to live in it.

“It’s too dangerous. During the last aftershock, the cracks in the walls got even deeper. Next time, we will all be buried under the rubble!” says Mr Estiverne.

Mr Estiverne, 54, now lives with his wife and four children in the garden of his small brick house on the hills of Martissant, in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince.

Poor building practices in Haiti’s towns and capital city hugely contributed to the destruction and massive loss of life in the 12th January earthquake. Frequent aftershocks, some of which are very strong mean that buildings that were already fragile to begin with are at risk of collapsing.

Caritas has distributed emergency shelter kits to over 60,000 people since the earthquake happened. Mr Estiverne recently received a family-sized tent which he has pitched in his garden.

“We’re so grateful and relieved Caritas provided us with a tent big enough for the six of us. It is the first time since the quake that we can all sleep properly,” he says.

Many people went to live in makeshift camps dotted around Port-au-Prince and other areas after earthquake. For Mr Estiverne, this wasn’t a good solution.

“We don’t want to leave our property and living conditions are too difficult in those settlements, there isn’t enough space for everybody there,” he says.

Over 550,000 people are living on impromptu sites in Port-au-Prince alone almost two months after the earthquake. With the arrival of Haiti’s rainy season, life will get much more difficult for all the people who are living out of doors.

Apart from the risk of floods and mudslides, little or no sanitation systems in crowded camps leave people at risk of disease.

Mr Estiverne is already planning for the rains. He’s dug a drainage ditch around his tent and put plastic sheeting over the top.

“With the plastic sheeting even more people can be protected from the rain. Now we have up to 17 neighbours spending the night here!” he says.

However, for Mr Estiverne and hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people like him a tent is just a short-term answer. The massive hardship faced by Haitians since the earthquake will only be alleviated when they have solid houses, new schools and a life of dignity.