Monday, June 28, 2010

the road

I have been very serious, the last week, and I didn't post many pictures, so let me change tack a bit, and share one of my funnier photos of the last few weeks. If you remember I have been talking in an earlier contribution about concerns regarding the road to Jacmel, which goes through the mountains, and has in places been badly damaged by the earthquake. The big issue was whether slices of the road would go, and even if not, whether we could keep the road open throughout the rainy season, as many expected landslides from the weakened hills - and that would effectively cut off Jacmel from the rest of the country (remember my adventure getting to Jacmel via an alternative road? Well, trucks wouldn't be able to do that, I think, given some of the rivers we crossed must have swollen beyond recognition by now).

So I collected some pictures of the damage - the worst part, which I am happy to say has not yet collapsed -, and some pictures of the efforts to clear the road. With so much UN equipment in the country the road in fact has been open all the time, although it has been hard work. Whether the individual Cash-for-Work crews have contributed much, is the question, but then, the strange thing with CfW is that it does not necessarily need to achieve something other than putting money in people's pockets. So they can buy food, replace lost assets, and stimulate the economy again. In any case wheel barrows cannot compete with heavy equipment, of course. But telling it is. Remember the need for Haitian leadership?

(1) this is the worst piece of damage, which still may slide away one day, but so far it has been holding up. Not that anybody would test the left lane!

(2) and this is from the early days, March or April, when big boulders were still blocking the road. These have now been removed.

(3, 4) heavy equipment helps, of course, and there was plenty available from the UN, and earlier from the Canadian and American armies (who have all but left in the mean time)

(5) so we announce the next stage in road clearing, beware of wheel barrows! Isn't it brilliant, the creativity of Haitians?
(6) and sure enough, there they are, a Cash-for-Work crew with wheel barrows - but the idea of the second man putting something in them, that hasn't caught on yet!

(7, 8, 9) Really, I didn't do it on purpose, but I jut never saw a CfW crew that was working full steam ahead. On the top photo (7) you can just make out one guy in the distance with a pick axe, and another guy pushing a wheel barrow in the front, but everybody else is looking at what others are doing. And that is pretty much the impression I have from all CfW crews (but it doesn't matter, as I explained above - really).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

the money

We have all seen the appeals for Haiti, five months ago, and we have all been impressed by the generosity of individual people giving whatever they could spare. The national action in The Netherlands generated more than 60 mln Euros, and with a government match of 41 mln, that brings the contribution of a small European country to well over 100 mln Euros, say 125-130 mln US$. Other countries have similar tales, and then you have the institutional donors, the European Union, the Worldbank, USAID, and many individual governments that have pledged to contribute to the rehabilitation of Haiti. All of these people came together end March, and the collective total promised was 9.9 billion US$.

Let's put this into perspective. Haiti's GDP was 7 bln US$ (2008, latest figure available). With a little under 10 mln or so inhabitants, that is 716 US$/person. So the average Haitian earns 716 US$ per year. The aid pledged is 130% of the country's GDP. Let's say 1000 US$ per person. I wonder what individual Haitians would say if we offered them the choice of 1000 dollars each, ie more than an average annual salary each, or 3000 NGOs helping them rebuilding their country.

Of course it doesn't work that way, we all know that. Collectively, aid money goes further and achieves more than if spread thinly - that is true, by the way. Aid money has to be well spent, responsibly, transparently - and we also want Haitian government leadership, it should not be the foreigners deciding. So the international community created what has become known as an MDTF, a multi-donor trust fund, which pools international funding for the reconstruction. And they have also created a committee that oversees this fund, with both international and Haitian representatives (initially 9 internationals and 8 Haitians, but after a public outcry the score is now 9-9). This committee, created for 18 months, is to decide what the fund can spend its money on. Nobody knows what will happen after 18 months. At the same time, a steering committee has been created, for the same fund, with different members (you qualify if you have contributed at least 30 mln US$ - actually contributed, not just promised -, and guess what, Brazil is the only member so far). Why two committees who do almost the same? On one, Venezuela is represented, and hey, it would be unacceptable to the US to have Venezuela have a say over spending of US money. Hadn't we just agreed that collectivity was the best way forward? And that this needed to be Haitian led? Right.

In any case, the MDTF, recently renamed the Haitian Reconstruction Fund, is only going to receive a fraction of the 9.9 bln, perhaps 5-10% of it. And it is no yet clear what share is going to be spend on long term rehabilitation projects, and what on direct budget support, to allow the government to operate, pay civil servants, essentially. Anybody can apply to the fund for money, for projects doing infrastructure, social services, clean-up, job creation, as long as it is aligned with the overall Haitian Reconstruction Plan, as long as you do so through a 'partner', either the Worldbank, the Inter American Development Bank, or UNDP. The fund is set up to ensure rapid disbursement - there is a five day turn-around promised once a project has been submitted for funding -, but since you can only apply through one of those partners, all organisations not known, shall we say, for their ability to approve anything rapidly, it may still take a while before you see your money. This is probably why the mandate of the fund is until December 2017. Most of the money is anyhow still going to be managed outside the fund, by NGOs, by individual government donor, who have no intention giving up their control over the money they have raised or promised. For good reasons, I would think.

Sometimes I think we should abandon the politics, just offer each Haitian a 1000 US$ and go home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

the insecurity

It has been raining a lot, lately, and life in the camps must be miserable right now, more miserable even than been before. But something else is happening, too, that makes camp life miserable. There are international standards that determine how much space each individual should have in an IDP camp, they are called the SPHERE standards. In Haiti, and especially in Port-au-Prince, we are nowhere near that standard, tents are side by side, without any room in between. Many camps are unlit. Bathing areas and latrines are separated for men and women, but they are next to each other. You can see where I am going with this: camp security, or rather, insecurity.

Where to start? Some of the camps have been used as refuge for criminals, including some of those who escaped from the Titanic, the high security prison in Port-au-Prince, the day of he earthquake. In an unprecedented action last week some 140 police officers, from the PNH (Police Nationale Haitienne, I don't have to translate that) and UNPOL, the UN Police Force that assists the PNH, have raided one of the camps near Cite Soleil and arrested no less than 30 ex-prisoners. Cite Soleil itself, the most crime-prone and gang-infested slum in town, is subject to gang violence, with rivaling gangs fighting for territory, and some of these fights spill over into camps. Crime, armed robbery or petty theft, occurs in the camps, fights break out, and rape is all to common, opportunity driven, no doubt.

With well over 1200 camp sites, large and small, in Port-au-Prince, not all have NGO camp management; many have their own camp committees, and sometimes separate security committees. In many cases this works very well, but invariably there are also abuses, camp committee members using their power over food distributions, for instance, to demand favours - all too often sexual favours. Some of these committees are infiltrated, and are not more than extensions of gangs operating in the neighbourhood. The committees, also the good ones, lack equipment, but given Haiti's history of militia violence, the humanitarian community is understandably reluctant to provide too much support - you wouldn't want to be associated with creating the next generation of Ton-Ton Macoutes, or the Chimaires of the Aristide era.

There is a program that brings police in the camps, joint patrols on foot of PNH and UNPOL, either on a continuous basis in some of the larger camps, or on-and-off in others. These patrols, if and when they happen, supposedly inside the camps, where officers can directly interact with IDPs, are well appreciated, and are creating a sense of security amongst camp residents. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work. Often the PNH is reluctant - afraid, perhaps? - to enter the camps, and prefer to stay at the perimeter only; UNPOL cannot independently patrol, they have to be with PNH staff, so they, too, stay out. At night, with so many tents close to each other, ropes crossing, and no lights, patrols can anyhow not enter the camps, and that is when they are in fact most needed.

Any hope? IDPs feel neglected, so much is certain. Frustration is high, and so is unemployment, and the temptation to revert to crime - not to mention rape - is there. Bored young men are easy targets for gang recruitment. More police may be a temporary solution, but the real need is jobs, to give people something to do, and houses, so that we can close the camps. Unfortunately, these are two of the most difficult, and time consuming commodities to provide. We may be in for a long wait, and for a seriously deteriorating situation before things get better.

(1) would you want to enter this gate when on patrol?

(2) or would you patrol in between these tents at night?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the worldcup

It was bound to come up: the Worldcup. We are talking about football, as in the game played with your foot, soccer thus.

I have been in Haiti before, during a Worldcup, so I was prepared. A country normally divided, between black and mulatto, between very poor and very rich, even between north and south, and certainly between government supporters and opposition, forgets all these differences for four weeks, and becomes divided... between supporting Brazil and Argentina. Slightly more than 50% of the population supports Brazil, slightly less that 50% Argentina, the rest doesn't really matter. Political demonstrations - we had quite a few in the past few weeks, invariably small and not gathering popular support, demanding for Preval to resign and Aristide to come back, and one group is even demonstrating to bring back Jean Claude Duvalier, better known in his time as Baby Doc -, political demonstrations have all but died down, and instead there was a demonstration, a real big one, and growing throughout, in front of EDH, Electricite d'Haiti, the local power company. To demand electricity during the Worldcup!

Haiti's own Worldcup fame is restricted to the 1974 tournament, when they - briefly - led against Italy, Emmanuel Sannon, Manno for his friends and fans, scoring against the legendary Dino Zoff (make no mistake, Manno is locally just as, if not more legendary, still, even though he died two years ago). They went on to loose 3-1, and their next two games, and exit, never to return again.

So they support somebody else, and what better then to choose a potential winner. The country changes beyond recognition. Flags appear on cars, and across the streets. The newest thing is plastic bottles, painted in the favourite's colours. Walls are decorated in either green and yellow or white and blue, football shirts and other merchandise becomes widely available, and finds plenty customers. Just a shirt won't do, you have to have a couple of flags and a headscarf, at least. During the matches it is markedly quieter in the streets - that's when we do our errands, now, much more time efficient. People are huddled around small television screens, in kiosks around the town, or in the camps - no large screens, like eight years ago. My earlier suggestion to put screens in the neighbourhoods, so that people would return to their houses, has not found much support, but putting screens in the camps would create yet another pull factor, so small scale TVs is the best we can hope for, this year around. Those who have no TV listen to the radio, which for 2 times 45 minutes produces a continuous stream of names of players who touch the ball, in Creole, occasionally interrupted by "Gooooooooaaaal", and more often by advertising messages, read out by the same reporters in the same monotonous voice. Enthusiasm knows no boundaries: yesterday after Brazil's narrow 2-1 win - against emerging football giant North Korea, of all contenders! - the celebrations went on until late at night (the matched finished mid afternoon, local time). Those included small arms fire, the use of semi-automatic guns for an uncomfortably long time, and the burning of I don't know what, probably - hopefully - rubbish and not cars. And this was only the first match of Brazil, nothing has been decided yet. But hey, it doesn't happen every year!

Still, the atmosphere, despite all the flags and all the shooting, is less abundant than eight years ago. People have other concerns, not just the Worldcup, they are preoccupied with the coming hurricane season, and their own feeble existence in camps. Perhaps that is a good thing, however much we all grant them the entertainment - more serious business is at hand for most.

(1) preparations are underway to create a Worldcup watch corner in Petionville, equally popular with Brazil and Argentina fans.
(2, 3) streets decorated with flags, large and small; another way of decorating is with painted plastic bottle, painted in blue and white or green and yellow, obviously, must have been an enormous task. I will try to get a picture of this, too.
(4) apologies for the poor quality photo, but you get the idea: shirt, headscarf and matching flags.
(5) and the merchandise, somehow shirts nr 10 are the most popular, whichever country
(6, 7) and huddled around a small television in the camps. By the way, the fact that the camps are mostly blue and white is unrelated to the football rivalry.... more to do with prevalent colour of plastic sheeting.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

the clearing

Somebody asked me the other day - not just somebody, it was the chair woman of the SHO, the collective representing the Dutch emergency response agencies - why the humanitarian community had not collaborated all together to clear the rubble. Let's all of us mobilise heavy equipment, and put our resources towards clearing, and in no time the city of Port-au-Prince will be spring-cleaned. After all, the presence of rubble hampers the recovery and rehabilitation efforts. Like, we cannot build schools, and houses, because the urban plots on which we need to build are still covered with rubble. The roads are clogged, because many people clearing their plot dump the rubble on the road. And, perhaps less obvious, continuing to have rubble all over the place will do little to relief the trauma that many still carry.

Well, firstly because the humanitarian community has organised itself in a cluster system, where everybody is represented and is asked to contribute to what they are best at. NGOs sign up with the cluster, or clusters, that best cover their activities. Save the Children is represented in the education cluster, the health cluster, the nutrition cluster and many others, with like-minded, or rather, similarly-focussed NGOs and UN agencies, to ensure there are no overlaps in what we do to provide relief, and there are no gaps. This works relatively well, certainly better than before, when this system was not in existence. There is also an early recovery cluster, and I imagine a rubble clearing workgroup is part of that. And that is where this effort should be concentrated - let's not all of us go and do te same thing. In any case, I would imagine that the people who gave money to Save the Children would expect that money to go, slightly more directly, to children's issues - like those who gave to Oxfam want it to go to what Oxfam stands for, etc.

Secondly, it is difficult, perhaps, to appreciate the enormous task ahead of us. One of those specialist agencies, UNDP, has estimated that it will take 1000 trucks per day, for three years, to clear all the rubble in Port-au-Prince. A nice round figure, but it gives you an idea what we are facing. We now do only 150 trucks a day. Only! I think that is still quite a lot, and is largely limited by the fact that there are not enough places available to dump the stuff. There are currently some eight sites approved, but there is a need for 15-20 more, in convenient locations; you don't want to drive all the way to the other side of town with a truck full of rubble.

Of course is doesn't help that, totally unprovoked, some unnecesarily add to the rubble: the mayor of Petionville, at the edge of Port-au-Prince, decided to clear the cemetery, the famous cemetery at the end of Route Delmas (for those who know the area) even though it was hardly affected by the tremor, in order to build a new bus station. Quite apart from sensitivities about dead bodies, so shortly after the earthquake, I am not sure whether this was really the highest priority, and as I said, it just adds to the rubble.

However, the most important reason to go slow, or slower than perhaps possible if we all go flat out, is that people need to clear their own rubble, step by step. Their possessions are under it, they want to salvage whatever possible. At one stage there was even the debate about the value of rubble, people didn't want to part with "their" rubble without being paid for it. Really! By now, it has been established, and mostly accepted, that the value is in fact limited. But in quite a few places, we expect that there are still a few bodies under the rubble, another reason to go slow - even though the recovery and rehabilitation efforts may suffer. Even though traffic in Port-au-Prince will be badly affected for quite some time to come, with people adding more and more rubble to the streets everyday. Even though people will be reminded of the earthquake, day after day - as if they ever would forget.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the politics

Why is progress so slow in Haiti? I mean, after the earthquake, but in fact the question can also be interpreted in a general sense, like what happened in the past 200 years in this country; the answer is the same: politics.

The standard view is that the Haitian government, as so many other institutions in this country, lacks capacity, which means that there aren't enough sufficiently trained people to do the work. And up to a certain level this is the case, there is surprisingly little leadership stepping up after the earthquake, there is worryingly little creativity in the rehabilitation plans put forward by the government, and there are alarmingly few solutions being put forward for the many problems that the civil service is dealing with.

Yet, capacity can be built. It is not easy because you will have to convince the Haitians, a very proud people, that they need to accept outside help - guidance and coaching -, especially now that they have to cope with one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in living history. Many Haitians, at all levels, don't understand this; for instance, our own Haitian staff don't see why an international NGO wants to bring in specialist staff that have dealt with large and complex programs before, they think they are perfectly capable of running such program themselves - they aren't, or at last most of them aren't! Obviously, at government level there are even bigger egos to deal with. I heard that the Clinton Bush Foundation, specially set up for this emergency, had offered to bring in and pay for 300 specialists to come and work together with government officials in several ministries to help with the work, and to coach the ministry staff. This has now been negotiated down to 30! By the Haitian government, which doesn't think it necessary to be coached. The same government that presided over a totally dysfunctional society, a failed state, even before the earthquake. A state where the highest achievable success is deemed to be legal emigration to the US or Canada, and the second highest achievable success illegal emigration.

Or could it be that the Haitian government is not really interested in improving this state of affairs? The Haitian government? Who is the Haitian government? Since I arrived here I have been perplexed by the fact that the Haitian government, with elections looming, did not do the populist thing, and expropriated land close to Port-au-Prince quickly, to let the NGOs build better camps, more of the Corails, spacious and with adequate facilities, but then closer to town, to ensure people continue to keep access to urban livelihoods. Perhaps individually smaller camps, easier to manage, safer and less prone to gang dominance and violence. Instead, it took the government months and months to finally come up with one piece of land, far away - admittedly, coincidentally close to Cabaret, one of the identified decongestion spots, the poles de croissance I wrote about earlier, but not a popular decision. Apparently, keeping the landowners happy, likely belonging to the 5 or 10 or 20 or so rich families that have controlled Haiti for as long as anybody can remember, is more important than wooing the voters, and we don't want to upset them through expropriation, now, do we?

Perhaps it is these people behind the scene, those few rich families, who hold sway over the government, who manipulate what happens in this country. Perhaps they don't want that capacity to be built, because hey, it is easier to manipulate the uneducated. It is easier to exploit chaos. Maybe there is a vested interest in keeping customs inefficient; we have more than 20 cars stuck in customs, they arrived early March, three months ago, and have not been cleared and registered yet. In the mean time we are renting cars, and pay handsomely for it as long as we cannot use our own vehicles. And we are not the only ones. I wonder who owns the franchises of Hertz, Avis and Budget business here in this country, no, I think I know. The same people who wield all the power behind the scenes, the same people who block customs reform. Maybe there is a vested interest in frustrating the international humanitarian community, by procrastinating with the rebuilding of Haiti, by undermining the efficiency of collaboration mechanisms, by insisting on government approvals, by paralyzing the decision making processes through simply not turning up for meetings. Who knows, perhaps the humanitarian community will fail, and withdraw, leaving the spoils for, guess who?

What can we do about it? Of course we can walk away in disgust, but that is not going to help the vast majority of Haitians who would want a better country, and deserve it, but are powerless to get there without outside help. Instead, we need to keep international attention focused on Haiti, for as long as possible, so that the biggest excesses are being avoided; even the rich, even the Haitian rich can be embarrassed. And insist on joint Haitian/international oversight where it comes to distributing money, even though the proud Haitians will claim that they can do this perfectly well themselves. Right!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

the model camp

A little heavy on photos, this time, but you must see this.

Corail is the relocation camp about an hour's drive north of Port-au-Prince, close to the town of Cabaret. Attentive readers will remember that I have talked about this camp before - the ghost town -, it was created some six or seven weeks ago as an option of last resort for people who had to be relocated from some of the makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince, because they were in danger of flooding and mudslides once the rainy season would start.

Some 5,000 people are now living here; supposedly all have moved voluntarily. This means that for these people they either didn't have an other option, or the bribe was attractive enough, a small cash handout (approx. US$ 50), a new tent, a hygiene kit and the promise of free food for 'a while'. And living in a model camp! Well, camp-wise it is indeed a lot better than any of the camps in Port-au-Prince, spacious tents, with a lot of room in between - still set up in rows, though, whilst there are much better ways to lay out a tented camp, in circles for instance, creating small neighbourhoods that promote more of a community feeling, and better protection against rape and other forms of sexual abuse. Never mind, there is still a sense of space. And there are plentiful new latrines, sufficiently far enough from tents not to be a health hazard - or a smelly nuisance -, and plentiful water bladders, which are being filled by tankers every day. There is a clinic, a child-friendly space, and soon there will be a school, Ministry of Education-willing.

And for the rest there is nothing.

There is nothing to do. There is no transport to town, because there is no town, apart from smallish Cabaret, just down the road. There is no transport to Port-au-Prince, too far. There is no work, and even if these towns people would want to take up farming - which is unlikely, they wouldn't know what to do -, there is only semi-desert, no irrigation, nothing will grow. Total misery.

Total misery? True, the people in the camp have nowhere else to go, presumably their houses have been destroyed, or they may have been renters in the first place, now without money to pay the inflated rents if they can find one. But outside the well-organised, well-lit, well-managed and well-provided Camp Corail another camp has been established, a camp of makeshift tents, - by far not as nice as the Chinese-made cylindrical tents -, pitched on unstable slopes, with no facilities what-so-ever. Camp Obama, say some, in an attempt to beef up its importance, but otherwise referred to as the other camp, populated by anywhere between 5,000 and 8,500 squatters, hopefuls who reckon that sitting so close to the source of distributions, one day they may get in and benefit as well. One day they may belong to the lucky ones in Camp Corail. Really. Total misery indeed. If you have nothing, and you have nothing to loose, even Corail looks a great opportunity.

See for yourself.

(1) the road to Corail, if you look carefully you see the cactuses. This is semi-desert, just some scrub is growing here, but nothing else. Even the donkeys are unimpressed.

(2) and there it is! Coreil! Hurray, hurray. (3) Look at the size of the tents, and the space in between them, the broad avenue. You haven't seen anything like this yet, on the photos of other camps I showed you, no?

(4, 5) Obviously, people feel at home already, and start to distinguish their tents from others, even grow trees in anticipation of shade 20 years from now. They are here to stay, so much is clear!

(6) And Haiti would not be Haiti if somebody would not have started a shop, or some other business, there is a hairdresser (no, I didn't go), a beauty salon, restaurants; how they do it - and how they survive in business - I don't know.

(7, 8) My favourite business here, though, is the mobile phone charger, using a solar panel - plenty of energy there! It takes around 3 hours to recharge, but hey, look at the price, 5 Gourdes only, or 12,5 $ct (last time I wrote about this it was 15 Gourdes, in Port-au-Prince, remember?) .

(9, 10) And the water and sanitation facilities, brand-new and working well - although the first riots have been reported already because the NGO providing this service refuses to pay for latrine and water attendants, they think that should be a voluntary job.

(11, 12, 13) After so much grey camp pictures - never mind the trees - a bit of human touch, our child-friendly space, including some of the children, to add a bit of colour to this page.

(14, 15) and Camp Obama in the back, quite a contrast with the model camp, right? Apparently, the squatters come from villages in the neighbourhood, but also from Port-au-Prince and other towns, chasing the opportunity.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

the engineering works

I have written about Cash-for-Work before. The idea is that people who have nothing else to do get a job and earn a little money for two weeks, with which they can go shopping so that they start to replace lost assets whilst at the same time stimulating the economy. It doesn't really matter what they do, really, many are clearing rubble - or shifting it from one side of the street to another, and back the next day, in the absence of a truck taking the stuff away. In Jacmel we had somebody who thought a little more creatively, and decided that if we are going to pay these people anyhow, we might as well have them do something useful. Instead of clearing rubble, we are clearing out a river bed, and we are reinforcing the banks, to avoid flooding in the forthcoming hurricane season (where rains cause much more damage than storms), avoid communities being cut off for days on end, and avoid the erosion of the banks and potential loss of property. Good idea!

So we had no less than 300 people working flat out for two weeks, clearing the space under the bridges, digging large holes to put the bottom gabions in, and collecting mountains of rocks to fill the gabions with. Gabions? Metal meshes, which are placed in the river bed and stacked against the easily-erodible river banks, then filled with rocks to ensure that they do not wash away when the floods come - and so protect the river and promote proper drainage.

Unfortunately, the project has been delayed, firstly because I was uncertain about the technical feasibility - but that has been sorted - and secondly because we couldn't get the gabions. We now have them, finally, imported, but they are still stuck in customs - and by now the rainy season is well and truly underway, so many of the preparations will have to be done again. The humanitarian community is often blamed for the slow progress with providing help to Haiti, but let there be no misunderstanding: Haitian customs is a major factor in delaying implementation. It is not only our gabions, but a range of other goods that are stuck in customs: plastic sheeting, drinking water (pretty superfluous now, but would have been useful three months ago), school tents, education supplies, all urgently needed for relief and rehabilitation work. And it doesn't matter whether you import through the port or across he border with the Dominican Republic, there are hundreds of trucks parked at the border. Some indeed miss a tiny little piece of paper amongst the stack of documents necessary to enter stuff into the country, but most are just there waiting, because Haitian customs is totally overwhelmed. Before the earthquake importing was already a time-consuming activity, imagine now, with so much more coming in. And hey, as customs officer you can't run the risk that a truck with tarpaulins slips across the border unchecked - and some can also not let the opportunity go to collect some random taxes on the way, I suppose.

But, with a bit of luck, in a few weeks time we will have contributed, however small a piece, to a permanently safer environment for people in the village of Cap Rouge, just above Jacmel town. And that is nice. And what is even better, once the project is finished and thanks to the delays, significantly more than 300 people will have earned a little money to spend, or to save for even harder times.

(1) river bed prepared for bottom gabion.

(2) part of the crew of 300, working flat out.... well, some of them, but you have to admit, when it is so full in the river bed, it is difficult to swing your pick axe.

(3) the bridge clearing team - a popular position, as this allows you to stay close to the bridge, and in the shade. By the time the opening under the bride is bigger, there is indeed space for eight man.

(4) whilst this gentleman has a much harder task, shifting earth with a wheelbarrow filled to the top.

(5, 6) but when everything is finished, it does look nice, and what is better, it holds out against the floods - this section was done in 2007, and has survived three hurricane seasons already.