American Red Cross aid project in Haiti: 500 U.S. dollars for a concrete roof?

by Luz Sosa, Mao Pengfei

PORT-AU-PRINCE, June 13 (Xinhua) — An aid project of the American Red Cross (ARC) in Haiti only provided unfinished houses with zinc roofs, and residents have to pay around 500 U.S dollars for a roof made of concrete.

Vania Resil, a widow, is one of the beneficiaries of the ARC’s aid project named LAMIKA, meaning “a better life in my neighborhood”, in the Campeche community in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

The multimillion-dollar project, launched in late 2011 to build hundreds of permanent homes for residents in the poor Campeche area hit hard by a powerful earthquake in 2010, provided only unfinished houses with zinc roofs, local residents told Xinhua.

“If I want a roof made of concrete for my house, I have to pay for the material and work which costs around 500 U.S. dollars,” Vania said in her house without doors.

Vania is now living with 11 other people in a house, with no money to afford a concrete roof.

In Campeche community, however, Vania belongs to the luckier group compared to those who still live in crude shacks, without access to electricity or basic sanitation.

Jul Aliace, a resident in Campeche, has been living with his family and his sister’s family for almost five years in a provisional home that they built for themselves from the ruins of their old house damaged in the earthquake.

Five people live in two small spaces with a double bed in each. Jul has to frequently adjust the provisional tarpaulin on the roof to collect water during the rainy season, or his home will flood.

A total of 1.5 million people were affected by the 2010 earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale. And 79,397 people (around 21,218 families) are still living in camps, according to data released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

When the ARC launched the LAMIKA project, it promised to develop brand-new communities But five years after the quake, Jul’s house is still unfinished, and he is waiting for the last two payments of the LAMIKA project so that the construction will continue, so are many others.

Results of an independent investigation jointly conducted by two well-known U.S.-based media organizations, ProPublica and NPR News, released earlier this month showed that the ARC has poorly managed around 500 million U.S. dollars collected to help rebuild Haiti after the earthquake and has only finished the construction of six houses.

The issues investigated include a lack of houses built by the aid agency, the “generous” salary payment for expatriate aid workers, disputes surrounding official figures released, as well as how it treated a cholera outbreak.

Questions flooded in during the past 10 days. However, so far, the organization has been on the defensive, having posted a list of “13 Facts” on its website that provided little information.

Haiti’s National Human Rights Network (RNDDH) expressed regrets on Tuesday that millions of dollars being spent in Haiti turned out to be without any structural projects until now.

A graffiti at the entrance to the Campeche neighborhood is eye catching. It reads in Creole “Red Cross, why do you do this? — Justice for the small community of Campeche — Away with the Red Cross that stole half a million U.S. dollars.”

The LAMIKA project has been put on hold.

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