Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti Still in Crisis

By Alysha Atma,

“Rape is a serious concern – in and outside the camps” – Walter Kaelin, United Nations

(PORTLAND, Ore.) – “Nine months after the earthquake, Haiti is still living through a profound humanitarian crisis that affects the human rights of those displaced by the disaster. According to estimates, 1.3 million people – people who lost their homes during the earthquake, joined by others who fled extreme poverty exacerbated by the earthquake of 12 January – live in spontaneously formed ‘camps’ in and around Port-au-Prince.”

Upon returning from the country, Walter Kaelin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, spoke about the continuous crisis in Haiti. He urged that meeting the needs of the thousands displaced will require a shift in focus within humanitarian operations, to one that is easily accessible to those in the camps as well as sustainable.

“Visiting some of the capital’s worst slum areas, I also met many other outside camps, whose plight was less visible, but not less grave. People in the camps have specific needs, especially relating to shelter, which need to be addressed at the camp level. However, other urgent needs such as access to health, water, sanitation and education faced not only by the camp population but also by Haiti’s poor should be addressed through a neighborhood approach. That way, the entire affected population has equal access in accordance with needs and people are not drawn into unsustainable camps.”

The representative is calling for continuous donor and international pressure in launching the reconstruction process. He is stressing the importance of donors continued funding of humanitarian assistance and protection activities, as long as no substantial progress is made toward durable solutions, however, he is calling for accountability within the Haitian government to make progressive strides toward improvement resolutions.

“This is a humanitarian crisis that needs a development solution. In line with its primary responsibility, the Government of Haiti needs to endorse and communicate publicly a plan on how to provide durable solutions for those in the camps and to inform and consult with the displaced on its implementation. In the meanwhile, if development donors ensure flexible, early recovery orientated funding arrangements, smaller-scale neighborhood reconstruction can get underway and provide much needed hope.”

Regarding the increasing number of forced evictions from private land, the UN expert underlined the importance of a rights-based approach in return and relocation; the right to property has to be balanced against the economic and social rights of the earthquake victims.

“The right of the displaced to return and reclaim legitimate occupancy rights is a key principle. In some cases, in particular where areas of origin have proven inherently unsafe, voluntary relocation or local integration are options, provided that livelihood opportunities and access to basic services can be ensured. There must not be any forced eviction without due process and reasonable alternative. The Government should publicly stand up for this principle.”

Mr. Kaelin expressed concern that pre-existing high levels of violence against women and children are being replicated inside the camps; an integrated approach to assisting victims and protecting those who report them must be a main concern.

“Rape is a serious concern – in and outside the camps. While I encourage the Haitian National Police and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to increase its presence and patrols in the camps, this is only part of the solution. The Government needs to send a clear signal to the police and the justice system that ending widespread impunity for the perpetrators is a priority.”

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

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