U.S. Charity Builds Ten Permanent Houses in Haiti; More Coming, But Not Enough

By Susan Jones | November 12, 2010 | 11:05 AM EST

A girl uses the rubble of a building damaged during the Jan. 12 earthquake to dry clothing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday Nov. 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

(CNSNews.com) – Ten months after the earthquake in Haiti, at least ten permanent homes have been built in that country, where hundreds of thousands of people are still living in tents.

A U.S. charity, the Fuller Center, announced on Friday that it has built six homes in Leogane, west of Port-au-Prince, and four in Saint Ard, both near the earthquake’s epicenter.

“The number looks a little modest until you realize that these are among the only permanent, affordable houses that have been built there since the earthquake,” said Fuller Center President David Snell, who recently returned from Haiti.

The Fuller Center’s first house went up in early May. The charity says it now has enough land in Leogane to build up to 50 more houses, and it is in the process of acquiring land in the village of Balan to build another 50-100 homes.

Two Fuller Center volunteer teams from the United States already have traveled to Haiti to help build the desperately needed homes. And another 12 teams are lined up for 2011.

“We now have the infrastructure in place, so we can build houses as fast as we can get people and money to build them,” said Billy Ponko, head of Haiti operations for The Fuller Center.  

An average Fuller Center home in Haiti costs $3,000-$4,000. Labor is provided by homeowner families, as well as some paid local labor and volunteer teams sent from the United States.

The Fuller Center said plans to construct 1,000 houses in the next three years through its newly formed Haiti Housing Network, a partnership of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Conscience International, The Fuller Center for Housing and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“With more than a million people living in tents, we feel a great sense of urgency to help as many people as possible,” Snell said. “We’re at the vanguard of the permanent housing movement in Haiti. What we need are people of goodwill to come forward and help us take this to the next level.”

The Fuller Center describes itself as an ecumenical Christian non-profit. It was started in 2005 by Habitat for Humanity founders Millard and Linda Fuller.

Now and then

Bodies outside the morgue in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010, two days after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Immediately after the earthquake, major network news anchors and correspondents spent days at a time in hot, smelly Port-au-Prince, where the bodies of earthquake victims lay sprawled in the streets.

But when the news crews returned to the U.S., Haiti’s plight mostly dropped from the headlines -- until last month, when the first cholera case turned up; and then again last week, when Hurricane Tomas blew through the primitive tent cities set up for the homeless, leaving flooding, misery and more cholera cases in its wake.

An outbreak of cholera, which was feared but never materialized after the Jan. 12 earthquake, has now killed almost 800 people in Haiti, press reports said on Friday.

According to the Associated Press, nobody knows how cholera came to Haiti, but “suspicions are high that the South Asian strain was carried by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal.” The AP noted that the case is “politically sensitive and health organizations who might investigate say they are currently focused on controlling its spread.”

On Friday, Nov. 19, the United Nation’s humanitarian office asked for $164 million to fight Haiti’s spreading cholera outbreak, the AP reported.

Elisabeth Byrs, a U.N. spokesman, told reporters in Geneva that U.N. and non-governmental organizations would use the money to bring in more doctors, medicines and water purification equipment to treat up to 200,000 people who could be affected by the disease.

She says the disease has so far infected at least 11,125 people in five of Haiti’s 10 districts, including Port-au-Prince.

U.S. 'moving aggressively'

The Associated Press reported last week that the first batch of U.S. reconstruction money is finally on its way to Haiti -- more than seven months after it was promised to help the country rebuild.

The U.S. government will transfer $120 million -- about one-tenth of the total amount pledged -- to the World Bank-run Haiti Reconstruction Fund in the next few days, the AP quoted U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley as saying.

“Having completed the process as outlined in the appropriation, we are now moving aggressively to commit that money to Haiti’s reconstruction,” Crowley said.

The funds are part of a $1.15 billion pledge made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the March 31 U.N. donors conference for Haiti.

The U.S. money will nearly double the current reconstruction fund, into which eight other countries have contributed $135 million.

It wasn’t until July that Congress appropriated nearly the entire amount pledged, $917 million, in a bill signed by President Barack Obama. But without an authorization bill or an approved spending plan, none of it could be released.

The Reconstruction Fund’s projects must be endorsed by the reconstruction commission co-chaired by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

According to the AP, the United States has spent more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid for Haiti this year, apart from the pledged reconstruction funds.

(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)