The number of people living in displacement camps in and around Haiti's capital Port au Prince has declined by 14 per cent to an estimated 421,000 since February, according to figures collected by IOM. This is the steepest decline in the camp population since early last year.
Some 73 per cent of the original population has now left Haiti's camps since the height of the crisis in 2010, when an estimated 1.5 million people were made homeless by a massive earthquake, which the government says killed up to 300,000 people.
IOM's April 2012 Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report shows that a further 58 camps closed between February and April, bringing the total number of camps down to 602 from 660 in February 2012 and 1,555 in July 2010.
The decline in camp numbers results partly from several well-funded programmes, administered in part by IOM. These are providing alternative housing solutions, including rental solutions for families who were otherwise too poor to leave the camps and find alternative accommodation, according to IOM Haiti Chief of Mission Luca Dall'Oglio.
"The dramatic fall in numbers is a direct result of the humanitarian community rallying around to provide tangible solutions. For families trapped by economic circumstances in high profile camps in Port-au-Prince, we have been able to provide a breathing space in the form of a year's rental subsidy," he says.
Subsidies of USD 500 per family were given under Rental Support Cash Grant programmes developed in late 2010 and scaled up to reach more camp residents in the second year of the earthquake response. This approach was adopted after it became clear that permanent reconstruction would be a long process in Haiti and there would continue to be a very large camp population in need of shelter assistance.
The latest drop in camp numbers can also be attributed to Government of Haiti-led return and relocation projects widely known as "16/6", and similar projects implemented by Camp Coordination, Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster agencies.
The "16/6" framework refers to an original plan to help people move from six well-defined camps to 16 communities. This has now grown to incorporate other relocation projects, not least the Government of Canada-financed relocation of some 5,000 families from the symbolic Champ de Mars square in the heart of Port-au-Prince.
The DTM report says that 60 per cent of the 421,000 displaced are now clustered in 48 large sites hosting over 500 households. Living conditions in the camps are wretched and deteriorating, due to the early onset of unusually heavy rains this year.
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