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Canaan, Haiti, is a suburb of Croix-des-Bouquets in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, where a large number of victims are settling after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake that hit the country in January. People displaced from the disaster are fleeing the chaos in the adjacent Port-au-Prince where the Government is struggling with the delivery of basic services to the victims.
The Government of Haiti refuses to recognize settlements like Canaan as permanent settlements and bans the construction of any permanent structures or the implementation of any infrastructure projects in the area. Canaan lacks running water, sanitation services and electricity, all of which are necessary for a community of more than 30,000 people who now live in the settlement.
In June 2013, the BBC World Service's World Have Your Say had a radio programme on Canaan's explosive growth, interviewing a man there who described how people from other displacement camps around Haiti and even other long-term residents of other areas of Haiti were increasingly coming to Canaan despite its lack of running water (there are pump stations, around which there are often fights), lack of a permanent hospital, and lack of transportation options outside daylight hours. The same month, the BBC News website posted an article detailing many of the same concerns about Canaan in written form. The growth of Canaan is not expected to slow or cease in the near term.
In January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti destroying most of its capital city, Port-au-Prince. The victims of the earthquake set up camps in the squares of the city where the Haitian Government, with the help of NGOs, provides food, water and sanitation services.
Some of the victims of the earthquake have been displaced to areas around the capital city due to the lack of resources. One of these areas is Canaan which is located a few kilometers north east of Port-au-Prince at the beginning of route 1 which leads to the North of Haiti. Canaan is a large area where the victims have set up temporary homes, usually made from tarp. There is no community organization yet and the tents are being set up in any free space. Canaan lacks the basic community services, with no schools except for a few abandoned UNICEF tents that are also used as churches by Canaan residents. There are no medical or health services available in the area. The residents of Canaan rely on the assistance of United Nations personnel who regularly patrol the zone.
NGOs in Canaan
Un Techo para mi País, an international NGO founded in Chile, is working in Canaan to replace the tents with modular transitional houses. The organization has built more than 800 houses in Canaan with the help of volunteers from Haiti, various parts of Latin America, and the United States. In July and August 2010 a group of volunteers composed of staff from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States travelled to Canaan to join their efforts. The volunteers built 300 houses and raised awareness of the opportunities and challenges in this settlement as well as made connections with programs that have successfully funded projects in post-disaster situations and fragile states such as the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF), the Global Fund for Disaster Response and Reconstruction (GFDRR), and the Haiti Reconstruction Fund which was set up in partnership with the international community and the government of Haiti after the earthquake.
Canaan Orphanage - Malnutrition Initiative
The malnutrition initiatives puts therapeutic medicated food in the hands of mothers to treat children with malnutrition. The food product is Peanut Butter medicine, which comes in a bag and has all the vitamins, minerals, fats and oils that a child needs in those critical years of development. The program picks an area and identifies malnurished children by way of weight, screenings and height and weight ratios as well as measurement of the arms to assess the level of malnutrition. The clinic staff provides food to the mother and evaluates their progress in the following weeks.
Medical Teams International
Medical Teams International (MTI) provided basic medical care to the residents of Canaan from 2011-2013, and transitioned services to a local partner, Jesus Le Vraj Chemin (JLVC), which operates a primary care clinic.
As Canaan continues to grow each day, the new community is in need of the support of the government and the NGOs working in Haiti in the implementation of community development projects that help sustain its new inhabitants and provide them with basic services.
The Way Forward
Organizing the community is a key step as this juncture when the land is being settled. The implementation of innovative community development approaches that support human development is needed. Capacity Development of the locals that generate income is very important as this time to ensure that the area prosper and becomes a model for other settlements.