The Deplorable Condition of Haiti’s Camps

Refugees International released a disturbing report about the condition of displaced persons camps in Haiti.  The picture is bleak.  Women are subjected to sexual violence for lack of protection and are sometimes forced to barter sex for food.

Meanwhile, residents are caught between landowners and violent gangs.  The problem is, there is really no where for many camp residents to go — and the Haitian police and international community lack the capacity to provide protection everywhere they are needed.

From the report:

One example was that of Camp Immaculée in Cité Soleil where hundreds of people were living. In May “bandits” started to attack residents nightly, threatening people with guns and machetes, and yelling at them to get out… The camp committee sought assistance from the [Haitian National Police] who refused to help, and then from MINUSTAH, which did increase patrols in their camp, but not between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m., when the attacks were taking place. The assailants were never apprehended and the camp residents were forced to flee and had to set up their tents half a mile away.

RI was informed of another camp where the landowner burned thirteen tents to get them off his land, leading to the death of a child. In some camps landowners are paying people small amounts of money to leave. In many of these cases the agreements are not really voluntary and result in further repeated displacements. Even if people have a home to return to, many cannot afford the rent as they have no means of earning an income.

I spoke with Melanie Teff, a co-author of the report with Emilie Parry.  She describes the condition of Haiti’s IDPs, why we are failing them, and what the international community can do to improve the living condition of nearly 1 million Haitians displaced by the earthquake.
Interview with Refugees International About Haiti by UN Dispatch