The Red Cross rubble removal project in the Carrefour-Feuilles neighborhood in Port-au-Prince is a microcosm of the earthquake recovery and rebuilding efforts in Haiti; tearing down a severely damaged former office building presented an opportunity for an environmental project with a livelihoods impact.
Local residents were hired by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to break down the concrete blocks in heaps of rubble from the former Haitian Red Cross office building, which was damaged in the earthquake. The workers earn cash for their work, while the recycled materials reduce the environmental impact of reconstruction.
“All the material from the building was crushed, and the new material is transported to a site where they’re using it to produce infrastructure material to use in shelter projects,” said Achala Navaratne, environmental delegate for the American Red Cross in Haiti. He added that the Red Cross is looking at the project not just as a cash-for-work program, but in the long-term “as livelihoods that will come out of rubble.”
Few people would be surprised that the number of Haitians reported to be struggling increased following the earthquake that shattered hundreds of thousands of lives in January 2010.
Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake, when more than 70 percent of Haitians lived below the international poverty line, surviving on less than $2.00 each day, and one in three Haitians lacked access to safe, drinkable municipal water.
However, an influx of foreign aid from the Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations following the earthquake has helped the overall wellbeing of people in the country. A Gallup Poll shows that the number of Haitians who consider themselves as suffering is now the lowest it’s been since first recorded in 2006.
The American Red Cross is dedicated to supporting programs to restore and build systems for even the most basic services, including water and sanitation, shelter, health and livelihoods. Like the demolition project that pays residents to work on rubble removal, many of the programs are intertwined, resulting in a holistic approach to recovery.
In 2010, for example, the American Red Cross partnered with Mercy Corp on a cash for work program that employed 8,700 people removing rubble, digging drainage canals, and road renovations.
In addition to cash-for-work and individual cash grant programs, American Red Cross livelihoods operations in Haiti have included microfinance for small businesses and host family assistance. More than 352,600 people have benefited from livelihoods support.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.