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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch Relief Efforts' Failure to Provide Shelter Has Haiti Reeling as Tomas Approaches

Relief Efforts' Failure to Provide Shelter Has Haiti Reeling as Tomas Approaches

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Thursday, 04 November 2010 12:46
Nearly 10 months since the earthquake, the lack of adequate shelter has again been thrown into the spotlight as Haiti is under red alert in the face of tropical storm Tomas, which could still strengthen to a hurricane by the time it reaches Haiti. For months aid groups and advocates have argued for the need for hurricane preparedness, specifically the need for better shelter, yet as Tomas approaches, "Aid workers are scrambling to prepare but are badly short of supplies including shelter material," reports Jonathan Katz of the Associated Press.

With over 1.3 million Haitians still living in makeshift camps, with nothing but frayed tarps and tents, is is clear the relief effort has failed to provide adequate shelter. Only 18,872 transitional shelters have been built (PDF), out of a planned 125 thousand. Meanwhile, as Stephen Kurczy of the Christian Science Monitor reports, efforts have not yet begun to repair the 120,000 or so houses that could "easily be repaired with only days worth of work." A structural engineer who has been assessing the city notes that the repairs will not start until sometime next year and "That's assuming the money actually comes through from international donors who pledged billions of dollars but seem reluctant to actually open their wallets, he says." And that is a big assumption as rich countries continue to neglect their aid pledges, and NGOs continue to sit on emergency relief donations.

The Haitian government has called for a voluntary evacuation of all IDP camps, yet most have nowhere to go. Included in the evacuation is Camp Corail-Cesselesse, supposed to be the picturesque relocation site, the camp has been anything but. Constructed on a flood plain, much lighter rains tore through the camp in July, destroying shelters and injuring at least 6. Adding to the fear for those in the camps is if they do leave, will they be allowed back? From the AP:
"People said, 'We've been displaced before. What's going to happen to us? Are we going to be able to get back?'" said Bryant Castro, an American Refugee Committee staffer who is managing the nearly 8,000 people at the Corail-Cesselesse relocation camp.
The threat of of being evicted has been the daily reality for many of the 1.3 million IDPs. Judith Scherr of Inter-Press Service reported yesterday on the demands of quake victims for a moratorium on evictions. Scherr writes:
The camp sits on prime industrial land near the airport and the man who says he's the owner - it's not clear that he has title to the land - wants to build a factory there, Bazil said. Little permanent housing has been built for survivors. Rent for available housing has skyrocketed. People owning damaged homes can't afford repairs.

"For six months, the owner has been asking us to move, but we're resisting because we don't know where we'd go," Bazil said. "In the beginning, he'd show up with a judge and police officers to pressure us to leave. Three months ago, he gave us another three months."

...

Bazil of Barbancourt 2 and Badette help organise grassroots protests against evictions. Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux is organising internationally. On Oct. 26, he addressed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, asserting that the 1987 Haitian Constitution guarantees housing rights.

"The Haitian government has the right to negotiate a moratorium against evictions...until there is a definitive solution for those displaced," he said.
The situation is perhaps best summed up by Kurczy, who writes:
The slow pace of postearthquake relief and reconstruction efforts has been on display for 10 months. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have seen their situations unchanged since the weeks after the earthquake killed 300,000 people. The situation may now be reaching a head, with tropical storm Tomas approaching, thousands of people homeless, and a cholera outbreak threatening to spread nationwide, all while the country gears up for presidential elections in mere weeks.

Tags: aid distribution | evictions | idps | ngos | shelter

 

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