UN "Behind Schedule" In Shelter, New Campaign Begins

March 17, 2010

The Washington Post reports today on the UN and Haitian Government beginning a campaign to shelter those in need before the rainy season begins:

In the coming weeks, the United Nations, in conjunction with the government and other relief organizations, will begin a communication effort to reach the displaced population, including radio, text messages, television news and even a television soap opera to drive home the point that masses of people must be relocated.

The Post notes the dire circumstance that is facing the hundreds of thousands displaced as the rainy season approaches:

Hygiene and sanitation in the camps are already nonexistent as the settlements quickly turn into shanty towns. There are not enough portable toilets, and debris has clogged most of the drains.

“With the rains come the risk of water-borne diseases, which create intestine bacteria and diarrhea, and diarrhea is deadly to children,” said Simon Ingram, a spokesman for UNICEF. The organization estimates that 250,000 children are displaced. In addition, health-care providers noted that the rain can also escalate malaria cases as mosquitoes reproduce near stagnant water.

The Post reports that while five locations had been designated for moving people to, “that plan is now at the bottom of a list of alternatives because of the cost.” Rather, officials are urging people to return to their homes, and if not move back in, camp on their property.

Meanwhile, The National reports that when Ban Ki-Moon visited Haiti last weekend he “acknowledged that the UN was “behind schedule” for rehousing survivors and warned that the makeshift homes could be “easily swept away” by heavy downpours.”

The National continues:

Anna Neistat, an expert on emergencies for the New York-based interest group Human Rights Watch, claimed that the co-ordination between the UN and the Haitian government was weak and has led to “mutual irritation” as the heavy rains draw closer.

“We are running out of time. Right now we need action that will protect people in the coming weeks,” she said. “They’ve been there for a couple of months now and, however squalid and horrible their conditions are, they have made these camps their home.

“Before they move they need to see something happening and be convinced they are moving to a better place. Nobody can be relocated against their will.”

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