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Many Haitians moving from camps into unsafe housing - IOM

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 18 March 2011 22:34 GMT

Large drop in number of people living in tent camps but many leave to live in inadequate housing

LONDON (AlertNet) - The number of homeless quake survivors living in camps in and around Haiti's shattered capital has fallen by 56 percent to around 680,000, but half of those who have left camps have moved to inadequate housing, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said.

Most agencies involved in managing the camps in Port-au-Prince and nearby towns have indicated they will withdraw from their activities between April and July, largely due to a lack of funding, according to the IOM. That prospect is increasing the pressure to find more permanent housing solutions.

At the peak of the humanitarian crisis following the January 2010 earthquake, which killed more than 300,000 people, 1.536 million sought temporary shelter in tented camps. In a report released this week, the IOM says the camp population continues to decline but at a slightly slower pace than at the end of last year.

The number of camps has also dropped from a high of 1,555 in July to 1,061 sites.

Worryingly, the inter-governmental organisation says its preliminary findings from a sample survey of 1,033 heads of households who have left camp sites over the past months reveal that around half of former residents are leaving for precarious housing situations.

"Our report shows that those leaving the camps are adding to the already grave housing crisis," Luca Dall'oglio, IOM's chief of mission in Haiti, said in a statement.

"As many as half move into tents near their former homes, others double up with friends and family, or more disturbingly move into unsafe houses."

Dall'oglio said that while the fall in camp populations seems like good news, "the fact that some families have left camps under duress without housing solutions is a major concern".


 The IOM and United Nations say Haitians are leaving the camps for a variety of reasons: some are moving into transitional shelters and durable houses; others are being evicted or abandoning camps because of insecurity, deteriorating sanitary conditions and declining services there.

One in four families living in camps is now threatened with eviction by private landowners, who are getting impatient and throwing homeless people off their land, according to the IOM.

The government is primarily responsible for managing the evictions process, but international agencies have been asked to help mediate and manage disputes.

 “There is a clear need to more assertively resist forced evictions, gender-based violence and other security risks in camps and to ensure that better housing solutions are available to those leaving camps,” said Nigel Fisher, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Haiti.

The IOM says it is working with the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti to help meet the growing demand for housing, but resources are needed urgently to provide families with a smooth transition from camps back into communities.

"Overall (our) report confirms the need for concerted efforts to continue this downward trend (in the camp population) while we seek durable and dignified livelihoods and housing solutions for the 680,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) still living in tents, as well as for the communities of return," said Dall'oglio.

The report is available at www.cccmhaiti.info.You can watch video interviews in Creole with earthquake survivors who have returned to condemned homes at www.citizenhaiti.org.

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