The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 registered a 7.0 on the Richter scale. In its wake, 220,000 people died, and more than 300,000 more suffered injuries. The earthquake took a toll on Haiti’s limited infrastructure, destroying 4.000 schools as many as 250,000 homes and leaving 1.5 million people homeless. These homeless survivors were then forced to relocate and seek shelter where they could find it. In response, 1,300 tent cities sprung up throughout Port au Prince and surrounding areas to accommodate the internally displaced persons (IDP) in search of shelter.
Inhabitants of these IDP camps face the dual dangers of poverty and mismanagement. Having already lost nearly all of their possessions and material wealth in the earthquake, IDPs are often ignored when it comes to public services. For example, 40% of camps do not regularly receive water, forcing the burden onto individual IDPs. In the wake of the 2011 cholera epidemic in Haiti, which has killed 6,000 Haitians to date, IDPs are increasingly forced to use their limited resources purchase water themselves.
Life in Haitian Tent Camp – Oprah’s Next Chapter
Furthermore, human rights abuses are rampant within the camps. Although Haitian law applies in IDP camps, considering that the government has a minimal role in their regulation, in practice, the rights of IDPs are dependent on the goodwill of the organizations or persons in charge of the camps. In particular, women are at increased risk within the tent cities. Sexual violence has become commonplace. At a meeting of the June 2010 United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva , one IDP named Malya Villard-Appolon testified:
“I live in a camp – in a tent in a camp – and I am a witness of the violence against women and girls who live in the camp all around me and I’m also a witness to the government’s response, a response which is entirely insufficient.”
In response to the housing crisis in Haiti, the government has failed to come up with a comprehensive housing plan. In this unregulated environment, large NGO’s have become responsible for providing basic services—such as schools, security, and healthcare—normally provided by the state. As there is virtually no state or international oversight, though, allocation of services is inconsistent and far from universal. For a comprehensive discussion on the role of NGOs in Haiti, see Aljazeera’s video Haiti: The republic of NGOs?
The Haitian government’s current approach to reintegration of IDPs is a plan called 16/6 which targets about 5% of the IDP population in six ISP camps with the goal of relocating the IDPs to 16 communities. Each family is to receive $500 in compensation for relocation. This plan, though, does nothing to address the underlying issues of land allocation for permanent resettlement and creation of permanent housing. Corruption has been widespread in the implementation of 16/6, with many families not receiving the designated $500 and increased rates of violent forced eviction. Landowners as well as state police have resorted to setting fire to tents to force IDP’s out of tent cities. Numbers of casualties continue to rise as new arson attacks are perpetrated.
Erkert, Alexis. “Fighting Fire in Haiti.” Other Worlds. 28 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 May 2012. http://otherworldsarepossible.org/another-haiti-possible/fighting-fire-haiti
Frewen, Justin. “Haiti: Forced Evictions of Victims. And Development?” Global Social Justice. 1 May 2012. Web. 1 May 2012. http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140:justin-frewen&catid=5:analysis&Itemid=6
“Haiti 16 Neighborhoods – 6 Camps Project.” Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 01 May 2012. http://reliefweb.int/node/441565
Kaussen, Valerie. “States of Exception-Haiti’s IDP Camps.” Monthly Review, An Independent Socialist Magazine. Feb. 2012. Web. 01 May 2012. http://monthlyreview.org/2011/02/01/states-of-exception-haitis-idp-camps