Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti’s camp residents call for housing reforms, long-term strategy

Free Speech Radio News
October 19, 2010

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Today, the UN official in charge of displaced persons called the situation in Haiti a “profound humanitarian crisis.” In a statement, Walter Kaelin said that around 1.3 million people still live in spontaneous camps. He urged the Haitian government to stop forced evictions from private land and warned about violence against women and children in the camps. One of those sites is Sentra Camp in Grand Goave, where 1,220 people live in 300 tents. Reporters with Haiti Grassroots Watch, a community-based media project staffed with local Haitian reporters, visited the camp, where they found no government agency or NGOs assisting people. Haiti Grassroots Watch interviewed camp resident Francois Delois. He said he and his neighbors had lost everything in the earthquake. He showed the inside of his small tent and the bare earth, with a piece of cardboard he sleeps on every night.

“Here’s my little brush, I want to show you everything. Here’s my little spoon for eating. Here’s my towel. Here’s my little shorts for sleeping at night. Here are my sheets. Here are my shorts that I pulled from the rubble. Here are my sneakers, a friend gave them to me. I don’t have anything left, everything was lost.”

Another camp resident, Marie Lucie Martel, says she’s concerned for her three children, who she can’t send to school because she doesn’t have money for fees or uniforms. Martel said the conditions are desperate and residents are fed up.

“I have a warning for the government and all the NGO’s. If they don’t take care of us, we’ll block the highway. They’ll say we are violent and call us names, but they say, ‘hungry dogs don’t play.’”

A group of camp committees came together to push for solutions to the housing crisis. Sanon Renel works with this group, and told Haiti Grassroots Watch that the NGOs are still focusing on transitional shelters, nine months after the quake.

“We need more than a short term solution. We need a long term solution, a different kind of state that works in the interests of the people. People and organizations need to struggle for the right to housing. That’s essential until we get that other kind of state, we need to get this pillaging state to provide decent housing.”

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