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Red Cross Distributing Tarps as Rainy Season Approaches

Port-au-Prince, Haiti—An earthquake hits with no warning. The earth shakes and moans while people scramble to do whatever they can to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Antoinese Danpe is fifty-six years old and one of Haiti’s earthquake survivors. She has lived in the Petionville neighborhood of Port-au-Prince since she was a girl.

“I haven’t gone inside the house yet. I stay inside a tent,” Danpe says. “I’m afraid that another earthquake is going to happen.”

Danpe is picking up relief supplies for her family of six from an emergency response unit comprised of aid workers from the American, Belgian, Netherlands, and Luxembourg national Red Cross societies.

During this distribution of emergency supplies, one of countless happening every week, the Red Cross team is handing out two tarps, two sleeping mats, two mosquito nets, one blanket and a bucket to each family. An estimated 5,675 people were reached on this one day alone.

“When it rains many people have no choice but to deal with it. They cover themselves or find somewhere they won’t get wet,” Danpe explains.

Since the earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, the Red Cross global network and its humanitarian aid partners have handed out enough emergency shelter materials for more than 650,000 people.

The other people, who are still living without as much as a tent or a tarp over their heads, are on track to receive emergency shelter on or before early May, the peak of the rainy season.

“We are gravely concerned about the upcoming rainy season as well as the hurricane season for hundreds of thousands of Haiti’s homeless people,” says David Meltzer, senior vice president of international services with the American Red Cross. “The Red Cross is working feverishly to get tents and tarps to everyone who needs them, but we also recognize that these temporary shelters are not hurricane proof.”

The upcoming rainy season has prompted the American Red Cross to infuse the relief operation with an additional $20 million for emergency shelter materials such as tents and tarps, including $16 million to support transitional housing construction coordinated by the global Red Cross network and $4 million for Habitat for Humanity to purchase shelter supplies.

“We hope that this additional support of millions of dollars to Habitat for Humanity, among others, will provide emergency shelter to more people who are now sleeping out under the stars,” Meltzer added.

Michel Grepen, another quake survivor who received emergency supplies this day, says his immediate family is okay, but a cousin was killed in the earthquake. His own house, he says, was destroyed.

“I’ll set the tarp up so when it rains I don’t need to worry about getting wet,” says Grepen.

In the case of Grepen’s family, the tarps will provide a modicum of shelter for twelve people, including his wife, brother, sister and their children.

The blankets distributed by the Red Cross will also be of great assistance to quake survivors like Grepen and Danpe.

“Now I do not have to worry about being cold at night,” says Danpe.