Haiti: earthquake victims remain homeless

The number of displaced Haitians living in camps in the Port-au-Prince area after the destruction of their homes in a January 2010 earthquake has now fallen to about 680,000, according to estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM, or OIM in French). In July about 1.5 million people were living in 1,555 camps in the metropolitan area, the IOM reported; the number of camps has come down to 1,061. But a survey of 1,033 heads of households found that the people who left the camps haven’t necessarily found better shelter: about 50% are still living in inadequate housing. Most are staying in tents in their old neighborhoods, while some are staying with relatives or friends. Others have gone back to their damaged homes, despite the risks involved. An IOM report found that while some people moved out of the camps because they managed to get transitional housing, many left because of forced expulsions, the deterioration of sanitary conditions, the high rate of crime in the camps or the reduction of services there.

Most of the organizations responsible for managing the camps expect to withdraw between April and June, just as the rainy season is starting, due to lack of funds. (AlterPresse, Haiti, March 24) Adding to the problems for Port-au-Prince residents, access to drinking water has become more difficult, the National Potable Water and Sanitation Directorate (DINEPA) reported on March 22, World Water Day. (Radio Métropole, Haiti, March 25) Haiti continues to suffer from a cholera epidemic that began last October; access to clean drinking water is crucial to preventing the spread of the disease.

The nongovernmental Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) reports that only 30% of the $5 billion that various donor nations promised for 2010 has arrived in the country. The promises of financial aid were made to reinforce control by certain countries and international institutions and to define policies in Haiti, according to PAPDA’s analysis. “It’s clear: nothing has gone forward,” the groups says. “Because of the crisis of capitalism, it’s utopian to believe that they are going to unblock $11 billion to carry out reconstruction…. There is no way this can happen.” PAPDA and other groups are planning a conference on April 28 and 29—entitled “Which Financing for Which Reconstruction?”—bringing together national and international experts to develop proposals for internal mechanisms capable of mobilizing internal resources for reconstruction, according to PAPDA program director Ricot Jean Pierre. (AlterPresse, March 25)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 27.

See our last post on Haiti.