The UN reports that "[t]o date, over 104,000 tarpaulins have been distributed along with 19,000 family size tents." This provides only slightly more than a quarter of those displaced with shelter.
Even when tarps are handed out, it can be met with confusion, as Herz reports:
At a shelter distribution by CARE International at a camp in a Petionville public square, the tarps were received with a mixture of confusion and disappointment.CARE later told Herz that in the future they would set up an example tarp in each camp before distribution.
"It's not clear for us. We can't set them up because they don't send anyone to give an explanation," said Joseph Jean-Ones, whose family lives in the camp, as he tried to fit one metal pole on top of another.
His wife was given a gray tarp, a set of gleaming metal poles, and a single piece of paper with pictoral diagrams showing how to tie the materials together. The tarps do not come with text instructions, in Haitian Creole or any language.
"They should teach people how to set them up before distributing them," said another man, setting the supplies down on the ground. "Now we don't know what to do with it. It's like they're distributing problems to us."
There has also been some controversy surrounding the use of tarps versus tents. The Shelter Cluster has largely decided that tents take up too much room and that tarps are the only viable shelter at this point. There are dissenting opinions, however. Herz reports:
"What we're about is shelter, warmth and dignity - it's difficult to get that with tarps," said John Leach, Shelterbox's Head of Operations, in an interview. He said the plastic tarps will prove inadequate under heavy rains.The reality is that no matter how much shelter material is distributed, the situation remains grave:
"If tarps are that great, why are all the U.N. people living in tents?" he asked.
"No one is pretending that this offers anything but very partial protection from the rains," Alex Wynter, spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, told reporters in a press briefing.
"I would say that the tents and tarpaulins, in addition to giving people a modicum of privacy, give people a tool with which they can stay dry overnight," he said. "But there's no doubt that we face a very grave crisis here, when the rains come."