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IOM optimistic Haiti's tent camps can close by mid-2015

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 16 Jan 2014 18:29 GMT
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A Haitian girl walks through a camp for people displaced by the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Swoan Parker
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BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The last remaining tent camps set up in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake could be closed by next year, providing there is enough funding and support from the aid community, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said.

Just over four years after a massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, around 146,000 people made homeless by the disaster are still living in 271 makeshift tent settlements scattered in and around the capital Port-au-Prince, according to the latest IOM figures.

“I am optimistic that these camps can be closed, but Haiti needs the support of the international community to help the displaced,” Grégoire Goodstein, IOM’s chief of mission in Haiti said in a statement.  “This can be done by mid-2015 if the conditions are right, including making the financial resources available.”

While the number of Haitians living in camps has decreased by nearly 90 percent from a July 2010 peak of 1.5 million, most people who have been relocated from camps have not moved into permanent housing, while many have been evicted forcibly from camps built on public land and by landowners who want to reclaim their land, rights group Amnesty International said.

Many tent camps have little or no access to drinking water, toilets and waste disposal, putting camp residents at risk of water-borne diseases, including cholera, as donor funding and interest in Haiti’s reconstruction has waned.

“More than 200 camps remain open and people continue to live in deplorable conditions,” Goodstein said.

Often living in flimsy shelters and under tarpaulins, camp residents are also vulnerable to flooding, especially during the hurricane season.

Those remaining in the tent camps are, ‘amongst the most vulnerable populations in the country,’ the IOM said.

The Haitian government and international aid agencies are running schemes to move families from camps into safe and repaired homes by offering them rental subsidies. Such schemes have led to around 60,000 families leaving tent camps since June 2011, the IOM says.

But efforts to resettle quake survivors in new housing or repaired homes have been hampered by political uncertainty, poor coordination, a cholera epidemic and longstanding land tenure problems.

“…While we acknowledge that there have been many efforts to rebuild houses, the shortage remains very tangible and more needs to be done to sort out the land tenure issue so that we know where and for whom houses can be built in the Port-au-Prince area,” Goodstein said.

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