PORT-AU-PRINCE – International humanitarian organization Oxfam today warned that leadership from the new Haitian government is urgently needed to relocate the 630,000 people who are still living under tents and tarpaulins.
These people face many challenges; hurricane season is underway, cholera remains a threat, as does forced eviction from camps. The Haitian government, with help from the international community, must implement a relocation strategy so that those living in camps can resettle or return to their homes.
“Relocating more than 600,000 people still living in the camps was never going to be a quick fix. But the new government, once confirmed, must take key decisions on issues that are preventing people from leaving the camps. This includes settling legal issues over land tenure, creating jobs so that people can pay rent, and removing the rubble which remains on the streets,” said Roland Van Hauwermeiren, country director for Oxfam in Haiti.
Recent reports confirm that more than 100,000 people are under threat of being forcibly evicted from the camps where they have sought shelter over the past 18 months – this accounts for one in five people currently living in camps.
After the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people whose houses had been damaged or destroyed sought refuge in the city’s open spaces – its parks, parking lots, as well as church and school yards. Most of these spaces are privately owned and now, 18 months later, some owners want their land back.
Although these land owners have a right to their land, the use of force and the intimidation of displaced people is not acceptable. People living on these lands must be offered a long-term and adequate solution to their housing needs.
“The Haitian government must protect those people who have been displaced by the earthquake from facing the second trauma of being forcibly evicted from the camps where they have been living,” Van Hauwermeiren said. “We all agree that the camps are neither a long term nor a sustainable solution, but people cannot be evicted from the camps without a fair alternative.”
President Michel Martelly has made some progress on this by developing plans to close six camps where approximately 25,000 people are living.
“While it is good to see progress being made on relocation of those living in these six camps, this must be done with a long-term relocation plan in place. The plan must ensure that these people have access to basic services such as drinking water, sanitation services, health care, educationh and employment opportunities so they can finally start to rebuild their lives,” Van Hauwermeiren said.
Eighteen months after the earthquake, Oxfam is providing access to water, latrines, and showers to more than 100,000 people, as well as supporting water committees in more than 30 sites in Port-au-Prince. These committees are formed by people living in the camps who take charge of the delivery of drinking water and the management of the latrines and showers.
Due to the new cholera outbreak in June 2011, Oxfam widened its cholera response program to reach an extra 77,000 people in one of the most affected zones and continues to monitor the situation in different parts of the capital and rural areas.
A set of programs focused on promoting small enterprises is already in place. In the coming weeks, 160 entrepreneurs will receive a mixture of cash grants, loans, and professional training to increase their profitability and stimulate job creation within their community.