On a three-day visit to Haiti, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing called for a final push to end the displacement crisis caused by the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti over two years ago.
"We can achieve this objective with the leadership of the Government of Haiti and enough international support," he said. "Those families surviving day by day with little but tents and plastic sheeting between them and the elements deserve better."
Ambassador Swing noted the sharp reductions in numbers of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) living in camps from the peak of the crisis. He expressed the view that a big push should be undertaken to close the 575 camps remaining from the January 2010 earthquake.
Latest Displacement Tracking Matrix report
"I am encouraged by the progress I observed since my last visit a year ago," Mr. Swing said. "I see a more positive atmosphere contributing to more positive attitudes and a determination to achieve results. Now we need to get these remaining camps finally closed."
Mr. Swing's visit coincided with the release of new IOM figures showing that 390,276 individuals remain in camps across the earthquake-affected area, down some 75 per cent from July 2010, when the camp population peaked at 1.5 million.
The figures, drawn from IOM's latest Displacement Tracking Matrix indicate a 7% decrease in the camp population since April 2012.
Ambassador Swing met with Haitian President Michel Martelly to discuss progress achieved so far and challenges ahead regarding relocation and camp closures. The President committed to continue to work with IOM to enhance programmes that would close camps, using the methodology developed by the Government, IOM and other humanitarian actors over the past year.
Afterwards Mr. Swing declared that IOM's partnership with the government was solid and that reducing camp population through rental subsidies, relocation, reconstruction and regularization provided a road map for future projects.
"Both the Government and IOM have a shared interest in delivering durable solutions to end displacement and for the sake of the people we need to get across the finish line by closing as many camps as possible," he said.
"Those left behind in the camps must not be forgotten as redevelopment gets under way. They are the most vulnerable and have the same rights to a future as all other Haitians," he added.
The Director General also met with the Minister of Interior Thierry Mayard-Paul, Minister for Haitians Living Abroad Daniel Supplice, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Kevin Kennedy and members of the UN country team.
Mr Swing spent a large portion of his visit in the field, surveying IOM's work in different aspects of the crisis. This included the densely populated neighborhood of Mangeoire, which was badly affected by the earthquake. IOM works with the community there to provide transitional shelter solutions and sanitation services, as well as canals, retaining walls and footpaths with the aim of attracting residents back from the camps.
Mr Swing also visited Champ de Mars, a volatile spontaneous camp that was situated in front of the National Palace. Until the Government's recent relocation programme, some 4,600 families subsisted there in tents and shacks. Over 90 per cent of the camp has now been closed with the help of rental subsidies.
Today schoolchildren enjoy in a newly restored playground, and people find relief in the wide open spaces. "Champ de Mars is the symbolic heart of the country and we are seeing a gradual return to normality which I am proud to be associated with," said Swing.
In other remaining camps, there are far graver problems. Jean Marie Vincent is a camp of 17,080 people who face serious security issues, despite the best efforts of UNPOL and national police to protect them.
Tents and tarpaulin-covered shelters provide little security for women and girls.
Mr. Swing expressed deep concern at their vulnerability to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Walking through the heart of the camp, he heard graphic reports of attacks from female victims inside their flimsy shelters, where plastic sheeting provides no protection from a knife or razor. "My heart goes out to these vulnerable women and girls and the sooner they are securely rehoused the better," he said.
The latest DTM report is available here: http://iomhaitidataportal.info.
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