News correspondent Leticia Martínez Hernández posted a report on Haiti, marking the ten-month anniversary of the quake.
Her story of a young man by the name of Joseph making block is very telling: “Joseph, a young man with little hope, spends his days putting up cement blocks that might or not be well made, but will protect him more than the piece of plastic sheeting that is currently his home, and he’ll maybe even manage to sell some…”
First, the odds are good that Joseph is “putting up” blocks that are not very well made. Joseph’s blocks are probably produced by hand using very poor quality raw materials and formed in a simple mold on the ground.
In contrast, good blocks need precise recipes and mechanical compression to form a strong structure. These good blocks are available from factories in Haiti, but Joseph doesn’t have a factory.
Second, Joseph will sell these poorly produced blocks to others in an effort to raise money to support his family. Through these actions Joseph and his customers replace the sheets of plastic under which they are now living with something more solid.
Joseph has become weary waiting for a better housing solution so he is falling back on what he knows how to do, and that is making blocks on the ground. In ten-months his need for better shelter has overcome his fear of the crushing death from heavy concrete. The memory of bad concrete is beginning to fade in Haiti.
We have posted an image of a typical block house in Haiti. If you enlarge the image you will see heavy block walls. Next envision what would happen to these walls in a violent earthquake. Can you see another rubble pile just waiting to happen?
Joseph’s story is probably happening everywhere in Haiti today and it is sad. Little by little the deadly cycle of poor concrete construction is beginning to rebuild Haiti. The hope for building back better is crumbling away.
Joseph needs block made with proper recipes and using good compression and so does his neighbors. Unfortunately Joseph and his customers are living with the hopeless decision between living a little better today or risking tragedy in the future. It is a sad choice indeed…