Homeless Haitians 'unwilling to move to camps'

Homeless Haitians are unwilling to move to new camps outside the country’s devastated capital city, a new survey by Oxfam suggests.

Less than a third of people living in one of the largest camps in Port-au-Prince want to move to the planned new camps.

The snapshot survey by the charity Oxfam suggests support is low for Government plans to set up new and improved camps outside the city.

It also suggests that support would rise if the camps were set up close to where homeless people used to live.

Support among the homeless would then jump to almost three quarters if that were the case, the survey suggests.

Oxfam appealed today for the Haitian Government to draw up its plan in “meaningful consultation” with the people it will affect.

The charity also warned that any new settlements should be seen as temporary and not left to turn into permanent slums.

The death toll from last month’s devastating earthquake is now estimated to have been 212,000. A further 300,000 people were injured.

It is estimated that around one million people, from a population of nine million, were made homeless in the 7.0-magnitude quake.

Oxfam conducted its brief face-to-face questionnaire survey of 110 people made homeless in the earthquake, on February 3.

The group, living at the capital’s Petionville Golf Club in Delmas, was questioned to gauge support for the Government’s mooted resettlement plans.

As well as revealing few Haitians are willing to move far to camps outside the city, few appear to have official information of the plans.

While 63% of those questioned had heard of the resettlement plans – none had been consulted or had heard directly from Government.

A total of 13% had heard of the plans from friends, 10% from local radio and just 1% from non-governmental organisations.

The survey group said any new camp would have to provide the very basics of housing, food, water, medical services, as well as employment and schools.

“Living conditions of people in the camps need to be rapidly improved,” said Marcel Stoessel, Oxfam’s Head of Emergency in Haiti.

“Many of the current sites will not be suitable due to the coming raining seasons which, without adequate drainage and sanitation, threatens to wash away shelters and cause health hazards.”

He said that if the new camps are established, people should not be forced to go to them.

They should also be safe, serve to reduce criminality and protect vulnerable groups such as women and children.

He warned that the camps should be “temporary solutions”, and “not end up as long term slums outside the city limits”.

Oxfam is currently helping 80,000 people with water, sanitation, hygiene promotion, emergency shelter, cash for work schemes and distribution of essential items.

It plans to help a total of 500,000 people.

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