HAITI: Three years on from earthquake housing situation 'catastrophic'

‘Back in 2010, the world couldn’t move fast enough to help Haiti but three years on, we see that the hopes for its recovery have not been realised’ Javier Zúñiga

Three years on from the Haiti earthquake the housing situation in the country is nothing short of catastrophic with hundreds of thousands of people still living in fragile shelters, Amnesty International said today (11 January).

The earthquake on 12 January 2010 left more than 200,000 people dead and some 2.3 million homeless. It is estimated that more than 350,000 people currently live in 496 camps across the country.

According to testimonies gathered by Amnesty International in Haiti, living conditions in the makeshift camps are worsening – with severe lack of access to water, sanitation and waste disposal – all of which have contributed to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera. Women and girls are vulnerable to sexual assault and rape.

Since the earthquake, tens of thousands of people have been forced from the camps. The International Organisation for Migration has reported that nearly 80,000 more people living primarily in camps set up on private land are currently at risk of eviction – 21 per cent of the total camp population.

Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International said:

“Haiti suffered from a severe housing deficit even before the earthquake, but for hundreds of thousands the situation today is catastrophic.”

“As if being exposed to insecurity, diseases and hurricanes was not enough, many people living in makeshifts camps are also living with the constant fear of being forcibly evicted.”

Marie (not her real name) and her child were violently and forcibly evicted along with tens of other families from a camp on 21 December 2011.

She told Amnesty:

“The camp committee was putting pressure on us to leave the camp. They said they needed the square for a [football] championship. But we didn’t have anywhere to go so we stayed there. They distributed leaflets every now and then with threats. At night they would throw stones and bottles on our tents … Then one day at 3 o’clock in the morning, they came and started knocking on the doors. Then they destroyed my shelter with razor blades and knives... They pushed me out and started tearing down everything. I did not have time to take any of my things with me; I left only with the clothes I was wearing.”

While the Haitian government has taken some measures to relocate those made homeless by the earthquake by offering rent subsidies, these are too low and people are not getting the support they need to find long-term accommodation. Many are worried about how they will cope when the subsidies run out as they are already struggling to feed themselves and their Children's rights, let alone pay for other basic essentials such as clothing, medicine and education.

The withdrawal of humanitarian organisations in early 2011 and funding shortfalls have contributed to worsening living conditions in the makeshift camps. Only a fraction of funds pledged by donors has been allocated to fund housing projects.

Javier Zúñiga said: “Current government housing initiatives seem to focus more on preventing people from living in public squares than providing them with safe homes. What we want to see is the implementation of policies that will actually make the right to adequate housing a reality in the country.

“Back in 2010, the world couldn’t move fast enough to help Haiti, but three years on we see that the hopes for its recovery have not been realised, as the rights of Haitians do not seem to have been made a priority. The country needs action from the national authorities and real support from the international community.”

HAITI EARTHQAKE IN NUMBERS

The earthquake
200,000 people dead
2.3 million homeless
105,000 houses destroyed; 208,164 houses badly damaged

The internally displaced (IDPs)
357,785 people (90,415 families) living in 496 camps (as of end October 2012)

Forced evictions
60,978 individuals have been evicted from 152 camps since the earthquake
78,175 individuals are currently under threat of eviction – 21% of the total number of IDPs currently living in camps

Living conditions in camps
72,038 internally-displaced people in 264 of the 541 camps did not have on-site access to water and toilets (June 2012)
50% of camps remaining did not have on-site access to water and toilets, affecting more than one internally displaced person out of six, for a total of 66,546 persons (June 2012)

Before the earthquake
67% of the urban population of Haiti lived in slums, which were the areas most affected by the earthquake

The most unequal country in the Americas
56% of households live on less than a dollar a day and 77% on less than two dollars a day
The richest 10% of households in Haiti earned 68% of the total revenue of all households

Sources: International Organisation for Migration, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, and the United Nations Development Programme and Post-Disaster Needs Assessment for Haiti.
 

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