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Emergency relief to Port-au-Prince camps

Haiti, July 2, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Fabiola Coupet/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Etzer Dumond is one of 1,500 people employed by Mercy Corps' cash-for-work program at Carradeux camp. Photo: Fabiola Coupet/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Clearing rubble is one of the jobs in Mercy Corps' cash-for-work program. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Tents fill every open space in Port-au-Prince: public parks, empty lots, even traffic medians. For thousands of earthquake survivors, these crowded camps are the only housing option.

More than 1,500 families live in a camp called Carradeux. “Life is not easy in Carradeux, but people get by any way they can,” says resident Etzer Dumond, 30. “Thousands of us have had to set up camp here because our homes have been destroyed. We’ve lost loved ones, jobs ... and it’s hard to know where to begin.”

Every day, Mercy Corps is working at Carradeux and 27 other camps to improve conditions and offer survivors a way to begin again. In all, we have provided water, hygiene and sanitation services to 22,000 people. We’ve distributed 3,450 hygiene kits, each containing a month’s worth of household cleaning supplies and toiletries. We’re teaching good hygiene practices like hand-washing and treating water so people can stay healthy even in crowded conditions.

For months, our priority has been to help families in the camps prepare for — and survive — Haiti’s rainy season, which began May 1. Our engineers created flood-mitigation plans to protect Carradeux and other camps. Residents continue to work to prevent flooding by digging trenches and building retaining walls through Mercy Corps’ cash-for-work program. Our cash-for-work program gives survivors temporary jobs for four weeks to complete clean-up and infrastructure projects.

“Before we started the cash-for-work program, Carradeux was covered with debris and trash, and had not received much help since January 12,” says Etzer, who has been employed in the program. “We’ve cleaned up debris and covered stagnant puddles that could breed mosquitoes. For better drainage, we cleared out existing ditches and dug new ones. Mercy Corps has helped us create a safer environment for everyone living here, and most importantly they put some money in our pockets to help us get by.”

For many families, cash-for-work has been the first opportunity they’ve had since the earthquake to earn income.

Mercy Corps prefers cash-for-work over traditional emergency distributions because it allows families to make their own decisions about what food and supplies they need. Also, their spending then directly benefits the local economy. Useful work boosts morale in camps and also offers families a reprieve from the daily stress of figuring out how to get their next meal, so they can begin to plan for their future.