PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The number of people living in the precarious
settlements that became glaring symbols of the Haitian earthquake’s
devastation has dropped below 400,000 for the first time since the January
2010 disaster, according to an aid group’s report released Tuesday.
The International Organization for Migration says there are now 390,276
people living in the precarious settlements that were erected in the
aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.
This figure is down from the high of some 1.5 million people who were
staying in the camps six months after the quake. It is also a drop of 7
percent from April.
The reduction in the camp population is attributed to combination of forced
removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear
where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are
better than the camp conditions.
A government relocation effort with IOM gave $500 rental subsidies for a
year but the project targeted only 5 percent of the camp population.
“As for the rest we don’t know,” said IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle. “A lot
of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.”
Even before the quake, many people in the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince
built ramshackle homes on the hillsides due to a lack of affordable housing
for the poor majority.
The housing issue remains hot. On Monday, more than a 1,000 protesters
blasted a reported government plan to evict renters from their shanty homes
to reforest the hillsides.
The IOM figures were released following a three-day visit by IOM Director
General William Lacy Swing, who is a former U.S. ambassador to Haiti.