First phase of Haiti rehabilitation to focus on water, sanitation, and shelter

By Chris Hufstader
A water jug being filled in Haiti from water distribution point.

Oxfam is narrowing down priorities for the first six months of what will likely be a very long reconstruction period for Haiti following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January. The organization will prioritize the following areas of assistance for the most severely affected survivors, and will reach between 450,000 and 750,000 people.

Water and sanitation

Oxfam intends to ensure that the people who were most severely affected by the earthquake have clean water and basic sanitation services. The agency will prioritize this support by serving cities and new camps to be set up outside Port-au-Prince, as well as medical facilities.

Solid waste

Working with community members and local authorities, Oxfam will provide support and equipment to help clean up solid waste and develop a long-term approach for solid waste management.


International standards for emergency shelter require 17.5 square meters of shelter space for a family of five; most families in Port-au-Prince are living in one-third that area. Oxfam will work with local partners to provide safe temporary shelter materials such as plastic sheeting, and help construct temporary housing. Initial plans are to distribute plastic sheeting to about 4,000 families (about 20,000 people) in February and March. In addition, Oxfam will distribute roughly 1,000 tents, and home repair kits to owners of damaged buildings that can be repaired.

Cash for work

Food is becoming increasingly available in affected areas. But survivors don’t always have any money to purchase the food. Oxfam is starting a cash-for-work program that will target particularly vulnerable survivors including women, support alternatives to food aid, and promote purchase of food produced in Haiti.


To promote availability of local food, Oxfam is working with farmers affected by the earthquake to stimulate local agricultural production.

Helping Haitian organizations advocate and prepare

To encourage involvement of civil society organizations in decisions about the initial relief and recovery process, Oxfam will help Haitian organizations recover from the earthquake and assert some control over how the government and international donors design and carry out the rebuilding of Haiti. This will help ensure that the billions that will be spent in Haiti will actually help the poorest communities recover from the earthquake. This will help build a Haiti that is stronger than it was before the quake.

Every project to rebuild homes, rehabilitate water systems, and help people get back to work will also include measures to reduce vulnerability to floods and earthquakes. This will help communities become more resilient in future calamities.

Ongoing assessments by staff working in earthquake-affected areas will help Oxfam refine this initial strategy for the reconstruction and long-term development phases of Oxfam’s post- earthquake assistance to Haiti.

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