Displaced Haitians could be home within 12 to 24 months, expert says

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WASHINGTON, USA — Many of the 1.3 million Haitians living in crowded displacement camps could be back in safe homes within 12 months to 24 months, said earthquake structural engineer and post-disaster expert Dr Kit Miyamoto.

Working with the Pan American Development Foundation, in cooperation with the Haitian Ministry of Public Works (MTPTC) and the UN’s Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Miyamoto and a MTPTC team of 250 specially trained structural engineers are wrapping up the most comprehensive inspection of 400,000 homes in the capital.

Despite the widespread damage caused by the quake, approximately 20 percent of dwellings are unsafe and should be demolished – while 50 percent are safe for occupancy and some 30 percent are in need of repairs.

"In most cases, these homes can be repaired in less than three days for $1,000 to $1,500 each," said Miyamoto, who spoke at an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting last week. "The math adds up. That means 800,000 people could leave the camps and go to repaired homes."

Miyamoto says the speed by which the people can leave the camps depends on money to repair the homes. "The Haitian engineers and MTPTC are doing a very effective job," Miyamoto says. "Their work ethic is admirable."

Amy Coughenour, deputy executive director of PADF, added, "The emphasis now needs to be on rebuilding neighborhoods, returning families to their homes and restoring livelihoods. It is critical that we and other groups receive the financial support to carry out this important mission."

Miyamoto, who was driven by PADF into Port-au-Prince a week after the devastating earthquake, has worked in more than 20 post disaster countries, including China, Indonesia and Turkey. He and his firm have remained in Haiti since January.

PADF, with a grant from the US Agency for International Development, contracted Miyamoto International to train Haitian structural engineers under the MTPTC management to inspect buildings and "tag" them using international standards: A red tag indicates heavy damage and is unsafe; yellow tag indicates some damages; green tag means it is safe for occupancy.

In addition to PADF’s 100 engineers, Miyamoto has trained an additional 500 for the MTPTC. These MTPTC engineers have inspected 320,000 buildings in the earthquake affected area.

Together, MTPTC, PADF and Miyamoto are now training masons and contractors to repair 2,000 yellow-tagged homes.

During the inspection process, the engineers identified 12 types of crack patterns – which are spray painted on the wall. When contractors arrive to a yellow-tagged home, they are able to match the inspection with government-authorized repairs.

"Our job is to be professors," says Miyamoto of the program to train Haitian masons. "The masons ask questions all the time. Their masons are quite good. We just need to refine their techniques. It doesn’t take much to bring them up to international standards."

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