Haiti Camp Closures Contingent on Funding Shelter Alternatives: IOM

The closure of camps in post-earthquake affected Haiti is picking up tempo as more and more families find alternative accommodation and are helped to return to their communities.

Some of the most visible camps in Port-au-Prince have closed, or are on the point of being closed, under a strategy developed by the Government of Haiti and the humanitarian community through its newly created housing authority: L'Unité de Construction de Logements et de Bâtiments Publics (UCLBP).

Under this programme, a week from today, the first 150 families, assisted by IOM will leave the overcrowded tent camp in Champ de Mars in the heart of Port-au-Prince. The relocation of all 4,600 families from this symbolic public space in the coming months will be a significant milestone in getting Port-au-Prince back on the road to recovery.

In close cooperation with the Government of Haiti, humanitarian organizations have developed a number of approaches to camp closures, which are centred on protecting the rights of the displaced. IOM, together with other UN organizations and international NGOs, is delivering solutions to support families leaving flimsy tents and shelters, by identifying families in need of house repair and providing a year's rental support for those families with no home to rebuild.

"The piecemeal efforts by different organizations have become a comprehensive strategy to close the camps, while protecting the basic rights of the displaced," said IOM Haiti Chief of Mission Luca Dall'Oglio. "But we will not reach a tipping-point in camp closures unless we have the resources to help these people find alternative accommodation. The strategy of relocation is working, now more resources are needed to carry it out," he added.

IOM's 2012 Migration Initiatives global overview of the organization's funding requirements for the coming year points to a need for USD 10 million for "facilitating housing solutions for internally displaced households, including voluntary exit of IDPs from camps"  in Haiti.

A rights-based relocation strategy has ensured that these camp closures are conducted according to humanitarian norms and that evictions threatened by landlords are either stayed or prevented. A typical family registered as living in a camp targeted for relocation receives a year's rental subsidy in advance. This gives families time to get back on their feet and to find work in their old neighbourhoods, while the reconstruction process gets underway.

By closing prominent camps and getting the most vulnerable into new homes, there is an immediate improvement in the lives of some of Haiti's most vulnerable.

But some 126,000 families still remain in camps in deteriorating conditions and it will be at least two to five years before the neighbourhood regeneration approach has time to fully rebuild the neighbourhoods of return.

That is why the focus has been on providing interim solutions to help people out of camps. IOM is both using and advocating for many complementary methods to help families leave camps and find a better interim or permanent housing solution.

Since the earthquake, the focus has been on temporary shelter construction, house repair and, in recent months, new home reconstruction, and relocation and rental subsidies. A wide range of approaches is being successfully used to help families leave camps to move back into communities.

This is happening as funding for camp management, health, water, sanitation and other services in the camps is drying up and vulnerability has increased.

This has led to higher levels of child and women's protection issues in camps. Reported incidences of transactional sex have increased and reports of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) have also increased substantially. In parallel with the increased prevalence of protection cases, there has been a worrying decrease in funding to track and report, let alone react to protection needs.

Health and sanitation are also under pressure. Almost all health services have ceased in camps, but the community-based approach to healthcare has not yet been sufficiently developed. The rainy season, which starts in June 2012, will see virtually no camps with access to free health services, while funding for cholera response and mitigation has substantially reduced. Funding for emptying latrines has all but dried up for all camps, increasing risk factors for cholera transmission.

For more information please contact:

Leonard Doyle
IOM Haiti
Tel: +509 3702 5066
E-mail: ldoyle@iom.int