GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Haiti’s remaining 575 refugee camps, which house 390,000 people, need to be closed and the residents given permanent housing, the IOM (International Organization for Migration) insists. The camps were set up in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake that killed more than 350,000 people, injured an equal number and left one million homeless.
The Geneva-based UN body says by Monday night 27 August it had helped 5,210 households weather Tropical Storm Isaac, which turned away from Port-au-Prince and headed back out to sea after lashing camps with 65 mph winds and heavy rains.
Eight people died during the storm, a relatively low figure for the poverty-riddled nation that is regularly battered by heavy storms.
“The camps got lucky this time and dodged the bullet,” says IOM Haiti Chief of Mission Luca Dall’Oglio. “But they will not always be so lucky and the international community needs to act now to close all the camps by providing rental subsidies and housing solutions for those living there. The social and financial costs of evacuating a camp population every time there is a major storm can far outstrip the cost of providing housing rental solutions.”
The IOM, in a statement, says “The well-coordinated response to the first major storm of the hurricane season signalled a new level of preparedness by the authorities. It followed months of preparatory work by Haiti and its international partners to build resilience into the civil protection system. In many cases, it was well-trained camp vigilance committees who ensured that the evacuation of vulnerable people, distribution of aid and the returns went smoothly.”