There is a long-term answer to alleviating poverty: helping people build up resilient livelihoods. Secours Catholique, the French national Caritas, worked with local people to improve their food production, supporting the most vulnerable with food rations so they did not fall back on eating seed stocks. Through food-for-work programmes in Les Cayes in southern Haiti, Secours Catholique helped communities to build flood defences. Now, extreme weather will not carry off their crops, as it has done in other years.
A sustainable and safer future has also been the focus in rebuilding houses. “It’s all different now.We are a lot more careful when we build,” said LucienWilner, a carpenter trained and employed by Cordaid, the Caritas member from the Netherlands. “Before the earthquake we did not build in this way, but now we won’t get so many people dying.” Lucien is part of a programme to tackle Haiti’s 50 percent unemployment rate, while giving homeless people somewhere to live.
“We’ve chosen to use treated pine,” said Michiel Mollen, Cordaid’s Shelter Programme Coordinator. “Termites won’t eat it. It resists hurricanes a lot better too. And the wood is imported so it doesn’t further deforest Haiti.”Cement is avoided as many Haitians are now terrified of going into buildings made of it, after living through the earthquake.
Luscemane César and his wife Yolène are rebuilding their home themselves, with the support of Caritas Austria. The couple and their two young daughters escaped when their house crumpled around them. It had taken them four years to build, and was destroyed in seconds. Luscemane’s elderly mother was badly hurt. “She was hit by falling bricks and lost consciousness.We got her out only just before the house collapsed,” said Yolène.
When the Césars were chosen for the rebuilding programme, Luscemane set to work straight away clearing the rubble of their old home. A tent for the family to live on site was provided, along with tools, materials and some skilled help. “We needed a house and I was willing to work night and day to help Caritas build it,”he said with pride. “With us only finding occasional work, we never would have managed it alone.”
Caritas Austria aims to build 500 permanent houses over the next two to three years, changing future building practices to keep Haitians safer and to help them out of the spiral of poverty.