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Number of Haitians Living in Displacement Camps Drops

  • Lisa Schlein

A boy carries a girl to school at a camp for earthquake displaced people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec 17, 2010

A boy carries a girl to school at a camp for earthquake displaced people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dec 17, 2010

The International Organization for Migration reports a significant drop in the number of Haitians living in displacement camps. IOM reports for the first time since the catastrophic earthquake struck a year ago, the camp population in Haiti has gone well below one million.

A countrywide survey finds 810,000 people still are living in informal sites in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince and provinces. This is nearly half the estimated number of 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians who were living in camps last July.

IOM spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, said people are leaving the camps at a rate of around 100,000 a month. The largest declines, she said, are in the south of the country in rural or semi-urban areas where housing options are more easily available.

“At first sight, these figures are a positive development," said Pandya. "People are leaving the camps because they are moving into transitional shelters or permanent homes or damaged homes that have now been repaired or because they have received other forms of assistance. Or, it is also because of storms, evictions, fear of evictions or the cholera outbreak that is forcing them to leave.”

The Haitian Ministry of Health reports more than 3,650 people have died of cholera and the number of cases now stands at more than 170,000. It says the overall case fatality rate has dropped from a high of nine percent to 2.2 percent.

While this is a big improvement, health officials say the cholera epidemic has not yet peaked.

Pandya said much has been achieved over the past year. She noted, however, there still is a long way to go before the displacement crisis in Haiti is resolved.

Emphasizing that durable housing and jobs are keys to long-term recovery, she said there are many obstacles to achieving them quickly.

“Issues over land tenure in particular, as well as the remaining rubble, the lack of land preparation for construction and environmental concerns are blocking any significant progress," said Pandya. "Given these constraints, it is likely that camp life will continue to be a reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the months to come. IOM and its camp management cluster partners… are continuing to monitor 100 percent of all camps now, to track levels of service and to raise awareness of the difficulties that the displaced face.”

Pandya said transitional shelters are the best option for displaced people until more permanent houses can be built. These can last up to five years. She said IOM also is building more than 8,000 shelters in the most affected areas to assist the displaced. So far, she said IOM has completed 3,000 shelters.