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Some Haitian earthquake displaced camps increasing despite significant drop

Khorri Atkinson | 4/24/2014, 1:45 p.m.
“Help Haiti” by Alcima Schnaider, 12x16 inches

Four years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless, numbers of displaced camps are still growing, even though the homeless population continues to decrease, according to a recent report.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a Geneva-based humanitarian group and the leading international organization for migration, released a report last week Monday that relied heavily on field assessments conducted between January and March 2014, which stated that the displaced population had dropped by 91 percent however, hundreds of families are returning to camps because they are unable to pay rent.

The IOM said the drop in numbers was the result of  the Haitian government and aid groups’ efforts to relocate earthquake victims from camps into permanent housing, with the help of rental assistance and subsidies. It was financed by the international aid groups. However, families were forced to return because the yearlong subsidies ran out. Some said they came back to rejoin relatives, while others said they moved from another camp.  

The report said that 78 of the 243 remaining camps saw an increase in numbers. That is 137,543 people—less than the 9,000 that were reported last January. The three communes that were said to have the highest homeless populations of displaced families are Delmas with 39 percent, Port-au-Prince with 20 percent and Carrefour, the third largest, with 9 percent. The IOM said they don’t have a record of how many displaced people live outside the camps.

To reverse the trend and to provide families with permanent homes, the report recommended “a strong commitment” from the Haitian government and its partners. Clement Belizaire, director at the Haitian government’s office for the construction of accommodations and public buildings, told the Associated Press that a lot of camps that are registered are being emptied out. Belizaire called on the international community to keep supporting the rental subsidy program so people may not need to return to camps.

The Associated Press  said camps have covered parks, soccer fields and parking lots, but it’s becoming “less visible because of the rental subsidies, combined with landowners kicking people off their property.”