Int'l migration organization begins distribution of housing material

18:00, February 04, 2010      

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has begun the distribution of homebuilding material in quake-hit Haiti.

The IOM said it is encouraging the estimated 1.5 million citizens living on the streets and in makeshift camps to use tarpaulins rather than tents in order to make longer lasting and more adaptable dwellings

"Tents have a shelf life of around six months, and if they rip the whole structure can collapse," Mark Turner, IOM spokesman told a press conference at the base of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) on Wednesday.

Turner said the IOM aimed to provide shelter for everybody before the end of February when the rains come and allow them to prepare for the hurricane season which begins in June.

It is still common for local people to live in the open with only blankets, mattresses or nothing at all, though the organization has distributed some 58,000 tarpaulins including 10,000 family tents.

The IOM has also distributed some 54,000 jerry cans, 20,000 kitchen sets, 42,000 hygiene kits and 51,000 blankets, 27,000 mattresses and 6,000 mosquito nets.

Turner said that improvised structures made from tarpaulins, rope and other material have multiple advantages over tents. Their ceilings can be raised or lowered, part or all can be removed and replaced, and the material can be recycled or sold.

By contrast, tents are typically too small to stand, prone to wearing out completely after months and difficult to repair, he added.

Turner also said there are more than 300 settlements across the city ranging from a dozen to several thousand. He noted that the strategy of his organization "has moved from creating mega tent cities to helping people where they are."

This departed from earlier ideas of creating more permanent spaces for people in locations designated by the government, he said.

The IOM is an intergovernmental group established in 1951. Its mission is to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration.

Source: Xinhua
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