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Preparing for Haiti’s rains

Mark Jafar, the Vice President of Corporate Communications at MTV Networks, is currently visiting Concern’s emergency operation in Haiti. He wrote this blog post.

Update: 9,000 of Bourdon Valley’s residents were at immediate risk of losing their lives due to dangers posed by Haiti's rains. As of 5 May, all 512 families have moved into the newly built settlement at Tabarre Issa. Success! 

 

Beauty and danger

 

Bourdon Valley lies tucked into the hills that rise above Port-au-Prince. With its thick mango groves and gently winding river, it’s easy to see why one would make this home. But the small concrete houses that once lined the valley walls now lie in ruin, replaced by the blue and white shelters that now blanket so much of Port-au-Prince’s landscape.

The inclined forests that lend Bourdon Valley its beauty also make it exceedingly dangerous. 1 May will be the start of Haiti’s rainy season, which threatens to unleash a torrent of mudslides and flash floods on the valley’s makeshift communities.

The UN has determined that 9,000 of Bourdon Valley’s residents are at immediate risk of losing their lives in this area due to dangers posed by the rains. Getting these people out is a priority.

Moving home

More than 2,500 of Bourdon Valley’s residents have registered with the UN’s International Office of Migration to move out of the area. Tomorrow, they begin their exodus to Tabarre Issa, where there is a newly built settlement on the outskirts of town managed by Concern Worldwide.

The stage is set

Tabarre Issa is the roots of what could be a lasting community. Concern has constructed water and sanitation systems. The World Food Programme will provide early food distributions, and the International Medical Corps will operate a medical facility.

Well-lit gravel paths line Tabarre Issa’s spacious tents, which in six to eight weeks will make way for transitional shelters. The infrastructure is in place, and the stage is set for a successful relocation.

Reluctant to leave

The challenge now? Getting people to go. Many of Bourdon Valley’s residents see the value in moving to Tabarre Issa. Yet, others remain unconvinced and are reluctant to leave the city.

Although conditions are overcrowded and harsh, with whole families living in small tents, there are few signs that people are preparing to move. Men chip away at the earth, building the foundation of a new home. A woman sells used clothing and sweets from a makeshift storefront. Other women try to feed their children with what little they have. 

Resolve

The seamless harmonies of young women singing hymnals in Creole ring out from a tent, amidst the sound of power drills and pickaxes meeting stone. Signs of the stunning resolve and resilience of Bourdon Valley’s residents are everywhere.

The question is: will that resolve ultimately lead them to Tabarre Issa? Very soon the answer will begin to reveal itself.