PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors from Haiti’s 2010 earthquake are likely to be still living in camps at the end of this year because of slow and faltering resettlement efforts, the International Organisation for Migration said on Friday.
The Geneva-based IOM’s warning reflected concerns that reconstruction work in the poor, earthquake-battered Caribbean state may be losing momentum as donor funding and interest wanes amid political instability following recent elections.
IOM officials said that although numbers of displaced people living in camps had fallen from an estimated high of 1.5 million in July to 810,000 in January, current plans by Haiti’s government and aid partners would not provide sufficient housing to resolve the displacement crisis this year.
“Hundreds of thousands of Haitians are likely still to be living in displacement camps by the end of 2011,” said Luca Dall’Oglio, chief of mission in Haiti for IOM, an intergovernmental organisation with 132 members.
“Many of those who have already left camps may not have found a lasting housing solution, living instead with friends and family, or in tents in their neighbourhoods,” he added in an IOM briefing statement on the Haiti housing situation.
The devastating Haitian earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people was followed by a cholera epidemic, a passing hurricane that unleashed floods and political unrest triggered by chaotic November 28 presidential and legislative elections.
After weeks of fraud allegations and protests, a deciding presidential run-off is set for March 20.
IOM said many partner agencies working on camp management in Haiti were phasing out their operations as they faced increasing cost constraints and funding shortfalls.
More than half of the displaced earthquake survivors were living in camps established on private land, and at least 99 of the total 1,152 camps were currently under threat of eviction by private landowners.
IOM said managing the evictions process was the responsibility of the Haitian government, but international agencies were being asked to mediate.
“If people are forced to move without a proper housing solution, they often have no choice but to move to areas that are insecure or unsafe — living in structurally unsound buildings or in areas at risk of landslides and flooding,” said Sara Ribeiro, IOM’s protection officer in Haiti.
IOM recommended speeding up repair and rebuilding in the capital Port-au-Prince and other quake-damaged towns.
Haiti’s volatile political climate is being stirred by uncertainty over the elections, and by the possible return from exile of ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, following the shock homecoming in January of ex-dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
There are fears that more instability could put at risk billions of dollars of reconstruction aid pledged by donors.
Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva and Allyn Gaestel in Port-au-Prince; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Eric Beech