More than a million Haitians remain in squalid “emergency phase” camps, nearly nine months after January’s earthquake, and security is still a major problem, a new report says.
The findings from US-based advocacy group Refugees International said that more than 70 per cent of refugee camps in Haiti face daily threats of violence and intimidation.
“The people of Haiti are still living in a state of emergency, with a humanitarian response that appears paralysed,” the report said. “Gang leaders or land owners are intimidating the displaced. Sexual, domestic, and gang violence in and around the camps is rising.”
It charged that the non-governmental organisations co-ordinating the recovery efforts in the country were often dysfunctional and lacking in experience.
“Action is urgently needed to protect the basic human rights of people displaced by the earthquake,” Refugees International said.
The UN has rejected some of the report’s criticisms. Imogen Wall, a spokeswoman for the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Al Jazeera that the word paralysed, in relation to its operations in Haiti “is completely the wrong word”.
“We have one of the largest-scale humanitarian operations in the world running now … and just keeping that show on the road is a huge job,” Wall said.
She said security remained a real concern, and that efforts were being made to improve the situation, but that “at the moment, we are struggling to find the capacity to deal with it”.
The massive earthquake, which struck Haiti on January 12 killed some 300,000 people and left millions more homeless.
Little progress has been made to find permanent shelter for those living in the nearly 1,300 camps ad-hoc camps set up, Refugee International said.
It criticised the International Organisation for Migration, which is responsible for co-ordinating and managing the camps in Haiti, and the United Nations operations in the country for not giving priority to actions to protect quake victims.
Al Jazeera’s Sebastian Walker, who has been reporting from Haiti since the earthquake struck, said the organisation’s findings were unsurprising to anyone who has spent time there.
“News that the situation in the camps is simply appalling really isn’t anything particularly new. We’ve seen for many months now this very large displaced population of more than a million Haitians living in very basic conditions,” he said.
One example, he said, was the existence of just five toilets at a camp in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where around 5,000 people reside.
Al Jazeera and agencies