Last Friday, I went down to Haiti to take a look at our progress since the earthquake. My first stop after I arrived in Port-au-Prince was in the neighborhood of Delmas 32. As we walked around, I saw buildings that had been marked with green, yellow, and red spray paint–buildings that are safe to inhabit are marked green, those that can be made secure with repairs are marked yellow, and structures that need major repairs or demolition are marked red. Since the earthquake, teams from the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works, Transport, and Communications in partnership with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and other humanitarian organizations to determine the habitability of structures that may have been damaged in the earthquake. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is a supporter of this project through a grant to PADF.

Administrator Shah surveys habitability assessments done by the PADF and Government of Haiti.

As of late June, these teams have assessed more than 170,000 buildings and have found that 46% are structurally safe, 28% require minor to moderate repairs, and 24% require major repairs or demolition.

In Delmas, I met with engineers and masons who were working on repairing some of these buildings, most of which are homes. We spoke with officials from the Ministry—they told us that initial structural and cost assessments of these structures are often done with handheld electronic devices to more efficiently keep track of data. Assessors then work with area partners, including Haitian engineers and masons, to complete repairs to yellow and red houses. This is one way they can keep costs low as well as give tradesmen experience that will be put to good use during Haiti’s reconstruction.

Throughout this process, the Ministry and PADF work closely with the community to explain exactly what repairs are needed, what their timelines are, and when residents might be able to return home. Homeowners are involved in this process from the beginning and they’re responsible for their own plaster, paint, and less critical repairs.

This coordinated and efficient program is just one of the ways that Haiti is building back better. Costs for these assessments and repairs are kept low—just one to two thousand dollars per home. And reconstruction work is being made to higher building standards than were in place before.

It was inspiring to see how well the PADF and other organizations are partnering with the Government of Haiti to encourage those displaced by the earthquake to move back into their homes. There are still many buildings left to evaluate, but the progress they’ve made is heartening and a critical step in moving forward with Haiti’s recovery.

I’ll write more tomorrow as we approach the six-month commemoration of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti last January.