Haiti: camp residents continue protests

In the largest protest to date by Haitians left homeless by the massive Jan. 12 earthquake, hundreds of people marched in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 26 to demand that the authorities take immediate measures to provide decent housing. The protesters threatened not to take part in presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Nov. 28. “There can be no elections with 1.5 million people living in tents,” demonstration organizers said.

The marchers came from several of more than 1,000 improvised encampments where earthquake survivors have been living for over seven months. The protesters suggested that international aid intended for them had been diverted elsewhere, and they accused the government of President RenĂ© PrĂ©val and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive of “political bargaining” with the situation. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 26)

Also on Aug. 26, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 9,000-member international military and police force, announced plans to double the number of police agents in the camps from 400 to 800, starting on Sept. 15. “This measure is aimed at preventing crime and protecting the most vulnerable groups in the camps,” United Nations Civilian Police spokesperson Jean François Vezina announced at a press conference. There have been repeated calls for more protection in the settlements, especially for women and girls, who have frequently been victims of sexual assaults.

MINUSTAH puts the number of camps at 1,354 in the Port-au-Prince area alone. (AlterPresse, Haiti, Aug. 26)

Twelve Haitian social organizations are planning to hold a conference on the homelessness crisis from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4. The International Symposium on the Right to Housing is to include seminars, protests, press conferences and meetings with the authorities to prioritize the need for proper shelter for earthquake survivors. The conference, timed to coincide with the United Nations’ World Habit Day, celebrated this year on Oct. 1, is also intended to build for Haitian participation in the 2011 World Social Forum (WSF), to be held next February in Dakar, Senegal. (Adital, Brazil, Aug. 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 29.

See our last post on Haiti.