The total number of Haitians still living in tents and shelters is now less than 500,000 – about one third of the population initially displaced by the earthquake of 2010.
This comes as the Government of Haiti's newly created housing authority L'Unité de Construction de Logements et de Bâtiments Publics (UCLBP) starts to deliver results and the pace of relocation picks up.
An initiative known as "16/6" is helping earthquake displaced people living in six public spaces to return to sixteen communities which are undergoing redevelopment. It was launched by President Michel Martelly last year and a government-led steering committee is now setting the pace for reconstruction and relocation.
In the last two weeks, under this programme, some 200 families have permanently left Champ de Mars, the historic plaza in front of the ruined National Palace. Over the coming months the square will be returned to public use under the project, which is funded by Canada.
"Haiti needs to have its public spaces like Champ de Mars restored to their former glory," said Patrick Rouzier, the housing adviser to President Martelly. "This project looks after the immediate humanitarian interests of those who have been living in tents and shelters in the plaza since the earthquake by helping them start their lives over in the neighborhoods. The project bodes well for a revitalized capital, where everyday life is returning to normal."
The Government's rehousing strategy is now focused on emptying prominent public spaces, while parallel efforts are made to rebuild earthquake-damaged neighborhoods. The broader aim is to start a movement from camps back to communities by pump-priming the local economy and thereby creating pull factors to encourage people to leave camps.
However, the movement of families from camps remains a slow and painstaking process with most families requiring help to get their lives back on track. These are extremely impoverished people, for whom getting their children to school and providing enough food to eat is already a challenge. Along with resources to relocate people from camps and help rebuild the areas ravaged by the quake, has come a measure of optimism.
"The government of Haiti is leading the way in restoring life and dignity to the Haitian capital," said Luca Dall'Oglio, IOM Haiti's Chief of Mission.
"Champ de Mars is now visibly less congested and there is a sense of optimism among those preparing to leave, something that has not been in evidence before," he added.
There are now about 491,000 individuals remaining in 660 camps in the earthquake-affected areas, or 120,791 households. At the height of the displacement crisis in July 2010 there were an estimated 1.5 million. In other words some 67 per cent of the original camp population is no longer living under canvas and tarpaulins.
Evictions remain a constant problem, however, especially from private landowners. And as pressure grows on families to leave privately owned lands, impatience is growing among a population which is hoping to return to rebuilt neighborhoods with adequate public health and road networks.
The pace of reconstruction is itself limited by the difficulties of rebuilding ravaged areas of a living capital city. It is all happening despite the rubble, dust and broken buildings.
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