Friday, August 24, 2012

emptying the tent camps

4.30.12 building under construction, house paint buildboard, homes on a hill above Port-au-Prince

I've been asked a lot since I've been back in the US if there has been any progress in Haiti.  "Slowly but surely" is my general response.  It won't be quick.  It will take years, maybe decades. Hey, we still haven't finished cleaning up after Katrina six years earlier.  But there has certainly been progress.  I've seen new construction, roads graded, and more ruins taken down in preparation for new buildings. I've met the architect for the new Cathedrale Sainte Trinite in Port-au-Prince.  I've seen neighborhoods of new little houses go up, something that deserves its own post later.  But one of the most visible signs of progress is the clearing of some of the camps for displaced people. 

This is a semi-recent article from Le Nouvelliste, a Port-au-Prince newspaper:  Le camp de Delmas 2 se vide de ses occupants
Delmas 2 is down by the port, not too far from downtown. 

Les quelques tentes restantes au centre d'hébergement à Delmas 2 - Le Nouvelliste
The few tents still in the camp center
Here is an older article about the Champ de Mars:
Le Nouvelliste - La vie reprend peu à peu au Champ de Mars -
An excerpt:

Le Champ de Mars tente de devenir à nouveau le lieu de promenade et de rendez-vous le plus ouvert et le plus frais de la ville comme avant le séisme. Les grands débats entre étudiants, professionnels reprennent à longueur de journée aux endroits qui sont déjà vidés de leurs occupants. Toutefois,il reste beaucoup à faire pour reloger tous les déplacés et redonner à cet espace, considéré comme le coeur symbolique de Port-au-Prince, son visage d'antan.

...En février dernier, des responsables de l'OIM et des proches de la présidence avaient indiqué que d'ici fin juin prochain, le Champ de Mars devrait être totalement vidé de ses occupants. Il est sûr que ce délai ne sera pas respecté, car il reste encore les places Dessalines, Pétion, des Artistes qui ne sont pas encore touchées. « Le processus avance. Le plus souvent, des déplacés ont du mal à trouver un logement. Cela retarde un peu le processus », a fait remarquer un responsable.

Ceux qui rêvent des concerts organisés presque chaque dimanche, des défilés carnavalesques, des rencontres amoureuses au Champ de Mars tous les soirs, sans s'inquiéter de l'insécurité, doivent encore patienter. Apparemment, les vieilles habitudes n'auront pas trop tardé à revenir sur ce site symbolique où vivaient 5 000 familles pour quelque 20 000 personnes depuis plus de deux ans.

6/9/12   a park almost cleared out, ready to use as a park again
 Still, the work is not done.  There is an in-depth article from earlier this month in the New York Times talking about the complications of the housing issue: 

Years After Haiti Quake, Safe Housing Is Dream for Multitudes
By DEBORAH SONTAG, August 16, 2012

An excerpt:
Two and a half years after the earthquake, despite billions of dollars in reconstruction aid, the most obvious, pressing need -- safe, stable housing for all displaced people -- remains unmet.

In what international officials term a protracted humanitarian crisis, hundreds of thousands remain in increasingly wretched tent camps. Tens of thousands inhabit dangerously damaged buildings. And countless others, evicted from camps and yards, have simply disappeared with their raggedy tarps and rusty sheet metal into the hills.

There are many visible signs of activity across the country now -- public plazas cleared of lean-tos, state-of-the-art repairs in selected areas and housing developments under construction. Tens of thousands of Haitian families have found enduring solutions to their housing crises -- by rebuilding themselves, by getting reconstruction assistance or by securing one of the relatively few new houses.

But to spend a week exploring the disaster zone is to discover striking disparities in living conditions, often glaringly juxtaposed: Givenson's dead-end camp adjacent to a quarter that is a beehive of construction; William Saint Eloi's good fortune next to his family's trials; a devastated community revitalized on one side of a ravine but not the other.

In the absence of an overarching housing policy, Haiti's shelter problem has been tackled unsystematically, in a way that has favored rural over urban victims and homeowners over renters because their needs were more easily met. Many families with the least resources have been neglected unless they happened to belong to a tent camp, neighborhood or vulnerable population targeted by a particular program.

''It's the project syndrome -- one neighborhood gets incredible resources, the next is in total limbo, or one camp gets rental subsidies, the next gets nothing,'' said Maggie Stephenson, a senior technical adviser to U.N.-Habitat in Haiti. ''We have to spread the remaining resources more equitably. Equity is essential, and so are durable solutions.''

You can read the full article here:
5/10/12 rebuilding a wall alongside a major thoroughfare in Port-au-Prince
 One thing I most worry about as I sit here safely in New Hampshire and think about the storm now over Haiti is those with inadequate shelter. I don't only mean those in tent camps.  I remember some less than sturdy shelters in rural areas; I also think of those homes perched unsteadily in and above ravines around Port-au-Prince, the ones the government tries rather unsuccessfully to remove.  Pray that they don't get swept away.

public safety announcement of sorts regarding a plan to empty those unstable neighborhoods "so floods stop killing people"

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