Haiti’s Earthquake Victims: 'Abandoned Like Stray Dogs'

  • by Jane Regan* (petit-goave, haiti)
  • Thursday, August 25, 2011
  • Inter Press Service

These mini-homes - one-room 'T-Shelters' (transitional shelters), meant to last three to five years - cost over 200 million dollars to build and today reportedly house 80,000 of the families displaced by the earthquake that damaged or destroyed at least 171,584 homes.

The Bill Clinton-led Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) has approved 254.5 million dollars worth of housing repair and reconstruction projects that will reportedly fix, upgrade or build about 41,759 housing units.

The new government - led by President Joseph Michel Martelly - recently organised 'Reconstruction Week'.

Among other activities, Clinton and Martelly inaugurated a 'housing exposition' with over 60 model homes and a new mortgage programme called 'Kay Pa M' (My House).

Does all this activity mean the reconstruction is off to a good start? Will the 634,000 people still living in Haiti’s 1,001 camps, and the undoubtedly tens of thousands of others living in unsafe and even condemned structures, soon move to safe housing?

Louise Delva, a mother of five who lives in the Regal camp here, isn’t aware of any plans meant for her, or for tens of thousands internally displaced people (IDPs) like her.

'They’ve abandoned us,' Delva said, disdainfully, as she gave a tour to community radio journalists from the Haitian Grassroots Watch (HGW) consortium. 'These are the sordid conditions we live in,' she said, pointing into a dark, fetid tent crammed with belongings, two mattresses, and a machete.

'When the rain comes, we’re in danger. Look how close we are to the riverbed,' Delva added, gesturing to the mostly dry ravine camp residents use as an open latrine. As she spoke, two children were hunched down over the rivulet.

This week, Hurricane Irene spared the part of Haiti where Delva and hundreds of thousands of others share makeshift camps. But that doesn’t mean the families aren’t in danger from the next hurricane, and from cholera which continues to rage through Haiti. Most of the country, and all of the 1,001 camps, lack adequate sanitation facilities.

'In early June we had 21 active cholera cases here,' Guyvlard Bazile, president of the Regal camp committee, told the HGW journalists.

Agencies Absent

Although it’s no longer making international headlines, the cholera menace still looms large here. Over 300 people are hospitalised each day, and as of Aug. 8, 2011, 426,285 people had been infected and at least 6,169 have died.

But early this summer, the humanitarian agencies that cleaned out latrines and provided healthcare and water had pulled out of most of the country’s camps because, they said, they lacked funding.

In fact, as long ago as last March, the U.N. Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned that 'most of the funding to partners to support sanitation, water trucking activities and camp management will be exhausted by June 2011,' adding: 'If sanitation activities come to an end, open defecation, indiscriminate disposal of faeces, cholera contamination and insecurity, particularly women seeking to find a private place to excrete, will increase.'

But, according to OCHA’s own tracking, humanitarian agencies’ 'water and sanitation' programmes in 2011 have already received over 40 million dollars.

Bazile said he doesn’t understand where that money, and the agencies, have gone.

© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?