Violence, anger grow in Haiti’s quake camps – report

Source: alertnet // Megan Rowling

HAcamp510A resident sweeps up in front of her tent at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp set up for victims of January’s earthquake in Port-au-Prince November 25, 2010. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

By Megan Rowling

LONDON (AlertNet) – Haitian President Michel Martelly, who came to power in mid-May, must urgently rehouse homeless quake survivors still living in camps nearly a year and a half after the disaster, and meet the basic needs of those who remain in urban slums, says a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The Brussels-based think tank warns the new government faces an “immediate crisis” amid the growing frustrations of these vulnerable groups in the capital, with 650,000 people still waiting for permanent housing in more than 1,000 unstable emergency camps dotting Port-au-Prince.

With the onset of the hurricane season, storms have already flooded 30 camps, driving people to abandon their tents.

“Forced evictions, some violent, along with the reappearance of criminal gangs in those camps and slums, add to the volatile mix,” says the report, released this week.

Evictions from camps, without the offer of viable alternative housing, have forced the homeless to set up tents and shacks on or near their old slum residences. But nearly half those displaced by the January 2010 quake have stayed in the original camps, with no clear prospects for the future and rising unhappiness at growing violence.

“Responding to those vulnerable tent camps is a core reconstruction challenge, with serious implications for peace, stability and security,” says the Crisis Group report.

Political actors need to make housing options safer and more sustainable in Port-au-Prince and other quake-hit areas. But there are few signs Haiti is “building back better” since donors pledged several billion dollars for short-term reconstruction in March 2010, partly because the body set up to manage the process has been slow to make decisions and hand out donor money, the report says.

“The Martelly government must adopt a national resettlement policy rapidly, and donors must speed the financing of housing and neighbourhood reconstruction if Haiti is to right the imbalances that have made it prone to disasters, violence and conflict,” Mark Schneider, ICG’s senior vice president, said in a statement.

“That policy should be less about closing the camps, and more about building stable, less violent communities, and not only in the capital,” he added.


A pilot plan to close six camps and resettle their residents put forward by Martelly’s administration “is an important first step that deserves support,” but should be expanded quickly to the most vulnerable camps, says Crisis Group.

Investment plans for the impoverished Caribbean nation’s eight major port cities and surrounding agricultural areas must also be speeded up to generate employment and stem the flow of rural migrants to Port-au-Prince, the report added.

Although donors and humanitarian agencies have supported the re-housing of some 200,000 people displaced by the quake, no comprehensive resettlement strategy has been formally approved to help camp residents access durable housing or rebuild their livelihoods and communities, the report says.

One major obstacle has been “disturbing divisions” within the U.N. country team and among donors over resettlement policies, it adds.

Humanitarian aid workers emphasised the need to provide basic interim shelter and services in camps, while development colleagues warned well-resourced camps would attract more poor people, preventing them from going back to their communities, according to Crisis Group.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)


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