“Back to Haiti” – or – “I will digress”

I have been given the opportunity to return to Haiti for the next three months. I will be working as the communicator for the inter-agency “Shelter Cluster”. That will mean that for the immediate future this blog will be less about social media and primarily about my time in Haiti.

Coordination saves lives

Tents at the IFRC base camp

05:30 am at the IFRC base camp.

The UN cluster system is a result of the “Humanitarian Reform Process”. In a nutshell someone realized a few years ago that it would make a lot of sense in large scale disasters, if all agencies knew what the other agencies are doing and if they coordinated their activities.

At the same time the idea was born that it’d be good to have one more or less permanent lead for each group or cluster of activities so that when a disaster happens you don’t have to find out who is coordinating the coordination.

So, for logistics for example, the people to call are always WFP, for nutrition it’s always UNICEF etc. For shelter it’s a little bit more complicated  but in essence my employer, the IFRC, is the cluster convener in natural disasters.

In Haiti, more than 50 agencies are currently working to provide shelter to the people who have lost their homes in the 12 January earthquake – from “Architecture for Humanity” to “World Vision” .  As a cluster convener (or lead) the IFRC is not telling them what to do and where to do it, but tries to make sure that efforts aren’t duplicated, resources aren’t wasted and that standards differ radically.

Since shelter is such an essential thing in Haiti, the cluster also has a dedicated communicator – and for the next three months that will be me.

To be honest – I am little bit nervous about it. It’s a pretty big job, an enormous responsibility and living in a tent for three months in the middle of the rainy season is not going to be a pick nick either. But it’s what I want to do. How I’m doing while I’m doing it is what I will write about for the next few months.

  • Hi Timo, any chance you can get this in front of some of the folks doing sheltering in Haiti? It's a public domain (no copyright, no patent) design for a $100 transitional shelter – plywood, so it's local build, no special parts. Netherlands Red Cross and DFID in the UK have both expressed substantial interest, and test units should be going up in Haiti in the next couple of weeks.
    http://hexayurt.com – details on the Haiti model at the "Hexayurt for Haiti" link.

    Vinay Gupta
    Hexayurt Project

    • Both the Red Cross and DFID are sitting on the Shelter meetings in Haiti. If you have been in touch with them then and if they have expressed interest then I'm sure they are evaluating it. But I can bring it up once I have arrived and understood how the selection process for shelter solutions works.