By Rain Araneda
On Jan. 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, highlighting the population’s vulnerability after years of political corruption and ineffective or nonexistent building codes and water treatment facilities. 1.5 million people were left homeless. Thousands are still living in “tent cities,” where 30 to 40 percent have no access to toilets or drinkable water.
In Oct. 2010, overcrowding and a lack of sanitation led to an irrepressible outbreak of cholera in the camps. The Pan-American Health Organization estimates the outbreak could kill up to 10,000 people and infect almost 200,000 in the upcoming year. To date, over 171,000 people have been infected and over 3,600 have lost their lives.
Barrels of Hope (BOH), a local non-profit, is directly addressing housing and sanitation issues by training workers in Haiti and organizing volunteers in Gainesville to construct earthbag houses for victims of the earthquake.
Ryan Scott, Director of Operations for BOH, spent a month of his summer clearing rubble in Haiti. He quit his full-time engineering job so he could join the reconstruction efforts. “I feel that my time is better spent delivering solutions to those in need,” he said.
Earthbag houses cost-effective, easy to build, energy efficient and sustainable; an entire house can be built by a small group of people within a week. The foundation and walls are made from bags filled with soil, which are stacked and compacted, one on top of another. Water is not required in the mixture, thus conserving the island’s scarce resource.