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Creating a Drier, Healthier Place to Live

“Before this project, things were very bad … lots of mud and water and mosquitoes.” Caroline Demosthen, 42, is reflecting on how conditions have changed in the spontaneous camp where she has lived since her home collapsed in last January’s earthquake.

Thanks to an American Red Cross-funded drainage project at Place de la Paix – a soccer stadium that has been converted into a camp for more than 800 families – an area that was once prone to heavy flooding is now a drier, healthier and, according to residents, generally more pleasant place to live.

Caroline, who lost two brothers in the earthquake and was more recently widowed, now lives in a tent at Place de la Paix with her six children, aged 22 to 10. Since progress has been made on the drainage project – a series of cement-lined ditches to divert water away from peoples’ homes and a cash-for-work program to lay gravel across the floor of the entire soccer stadium – she says her family’s life has dramatically improved.

“At night, in the rain, it was really serious,” she says, recalling neighbors who were unable to sleep due to knee-deep water in their homes. “Now we don’t have insects inside the tent all night and I’m living like the bourgeoisie.” Unlike many of her neighbors, Caroline -- who earns about $6 a day cleaning showers and latrines at the camp -- is able to afford electricity in her tent.

The American Red Cross teamed up with Concern International to fund the drainage project, which has addressed critical water and sanitation issues at a time when a major cholera outbreak is sweeping across Haiti. Cholera is a water-borne disease, and health experts say improved water and sanitation systems will be critical to stemming the spread of the disease in future.

Earthquake in Haiti How the Red Cross is helping, how you can help, survivor information, additional resources. Read more...

In addition to improving health and hygiene, the drainage project at Place de la Paix has also created hundreds of cash-for-work jobs for camp residents, who have been digging ditches and toting gravel for months. Gislaine Saint Aime, a 28-year-old mother of four, is one of those hired for the cash-for-work program. Her family’s home collapsed in the January earthquake and they ended up under a tent at the stadium. She, too, says conditions have greatly improved since the drainage project was launched. But life in the camp remains hard.

Gislaine’s youngest child, a little girl named My Love, was born in the middle of a fierce downpour that struck Port-au-Prince in September. “I have nothing,” says Gislaine. “But at least now I have some money to feed my children.”