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Haitian Government Working to Move Camps Before Rainy Season

The rainy season in Haiti begins shortly and the government is rushing to complete a new camp for those left homeless by the earthquake

Sylva Louis has lived in the sprawling refugee camp of Champs de Mars in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti's capital, since the January 12 earthquake (file photo)
Sylva Louis has lived in the sprawling refugee camp of Champs de Mars in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti's capital, since the January 12 earthquake (file photo)
Jeff Swicord

Haiti's rainy season begins in the next few weeks and government officials are working to get victims of the January earthquake into better shelters.  A top priority is to move the people living in the park known as Champs de Mars located across from the destroyed presidential palace. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports from Port Au Prince, the government is putting the finishing touches on a more permanent camp outside the city center.

Sylva Louis has lived in the sprawling refugee camp of Champs de Mars in downtown Port au Prince since the earthquake on January 12.  The Government has made it a priority to move residents before the rainy season begins in a few weeks.  And many like Sylva are uneasy.

"I am not working, the country is messed up. Now you are telling me you want to send me somewhere were I don't know nobody.  How am I going to live?  How am I going to survive? At least right here I know these people.  I might be able to get a plate of food from one of them," Louis said.

Champs de Mars has undergone a transformation since the earthquake.  Two months ago, people were living out in the open or under tents made of blankets and sheets.  Now many have spent as much as a year's salary building structures of wood and tin. And businesses like this bar and music store have opened up.

The government says they cannot stay here, and recently offered residents five options, ranging from returning to their old home to moving to a government built camp like this one outside the city center.

Workers were busy finishing the toilet and shower facilities when we visited.  It will house 8,000 people in tents.  Fifty security guards will be on duty around the clock.  There are plans for basketball courts and a football field.  And a well for water was recently drilled.  Seventy percent of the residents are expected to come from Champs de Mars.

Most of the Champs de Mars residents we talked to were willing to move.  Twenty-six year-old Louis Jacques Franto told us if the government wants to move us that is fine, as long as it is safe.

Jeanne Baptiste Barthelmy says she would like to have a better shelter.  The plastic tarp that serves as the roof of her house fills with water when it rains.   The pools become a breeding ground for mosquitos.

But her mother who lives nearby is sick.  And she is worried she will not be able to visit as often if she is housed far away.

The government will begin moving people out of Champs de Mars in the next few weeks.  Hopefully, the rains will hold off until then.

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