Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitians in ‘emergency’ conditions in tent cities

By Benedict Mander, Financial Times
October 6, 2010

Haitians continue to endure “emergency” conditions in the tent cities that sprung up around Port-au-Prince after a catastrophic earthquake almost nine months ago, and humanitarian efforts “appear paralysed”, according to a new report.

Refugees International (RI), a non-governmental organisation, is fiercely critical of progress in relieving the plight of the 1.3m displaced Haitiansliving in some 1,300 camps, many of whom were suffering from hunger, rape, intimidation and forced eviction.

Michel Gabaudan, RI president, called on the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the multilateral body charged with coordinating the camps, to do more to protect the Haitians, calculating that more than 70 per cent of camps lack “proper management”.

“People are being threatened by gangs and women are getting raped. While coping with this crisis would be an enormous challenge for any agency, far more can be done to allocate camp managers and coordinate assistance,” said Mr Gabaudan.

The IOM says that only around 50 camps are occupied by more than 200 families, and they are all managed. “There are appalling conditions, of course there are, that’s exactly the point and that’s what we’re trying to mitigate all the time,” said IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle. He said that many camps consist only of a few people living by the side of the road and are “impossible” to manage.

At the heart of the problem is a lack of land available to build new shelters and relocate camp dwellers away from overcrowded and chaotic camps. This is due in part to the unwillingness of landowners to sell their property, but also because of the failure of the government and the international community to intervene more forcefully to resolve the situation.

A further barrier is the failure of countries to send funds pledged in March at a United Nations-backed donor conference for relief of the earthquake victims and to reconstruct the wreckage. More than $10bn was pledged overall, with the top 22 donors pledging $2.6bn excluding debt relief for the fiscal year 2010-11.

Five months on, just a fifth of that ($538.3m) had been distributed, according to a report released in late August by the Washington-based Center for Economic Policy and Research. Over $200m had been provided by multilateral organisations such as the IDB, the World Bank and the IMF. A further $238m had been sent by Spain, Japan and Brazil. But of the almost $900m pledged by the US, nothing had arrived.

Meanwhile, the chaos continues in Port-au-Prince and the work of aid agencies is stalled. Only 2 per cent of rubble clogging up the city has been removed and only 13,000 temporary shelters have been built – less than a tenth the number planned.

“It’s as if we are forgotten,” said one Haitian quoted in a recent report by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, which called on the Haitian government, donor states and aid agencies to allocate more resources to meet the basic needs of displaced Haitians.

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