Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Haiti: UN expert urges changed focus for 1.3 million quake survivors still in camps

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 19 October 2010
Cite as UN News Service, Haiti: UN expert urges changed focus for 1.3 million quake survivors still in camps, 19 October 2010, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
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With 1.3 million people still living in spontaneously formed camps nine months after a massive earthquake devastated Haiti, a United Nations expert today called for a shift in the focus of humanitarian operations and more urgency in launching the reconstruction process.

"Haiti is still living through a profound humanitarian crisis that affects the human rights of those displaced by the disaster," Secretary-General Ban Ki moon's Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Walter Kaelin said after a visit to the country, noting that camp residents include both those who lost their homes and others fleeing poverty exacerbated by the January quake, which killed more than 200,000 people.

"Visiting some of the capital's worst slum areas, I also met many others outside camps, whose plight was less visible, but not less grave. People in the camps have specific needs, especially relating to shelter, which need to be addressed at the camp level," he added.

"However, other urgent needs such as access to health, water, sanitation and education faced not only by the camp population but also by Haiti's poor should be addressed through a neighbourhood approach. That way, the entire affected population has equal access in accordance with needs and people are not drawn into unsustainable camps."

Calling for more urgency for reconstruction process, Mr. Kaelin said the crisis needs a development solution, with the Government facing the primary responsibility to communicate publicly a plan on how to provide durable solutions, while donors ensure early recovery funding for smaller-scale neighbourhood reconstruction to begin.

Regarding the increasing number of forced evictions from private land, he stressed that there must not be any forced eviction without due process and reasonable alternatives, and "the Government should publicly stand up for this principle," with the right to property balanced against the economic and social rights of the quake victims.

Mr. Kaelin voiced concern that pre-existing high levels of violence against women and children were being replicated in the camps. "Rape is a serious concern in and outside the camps," he said. "While I encourage the Haitian National Police and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to increase its presence and patrols in the camps, this is only part of the solution.

"The Government needs to send a clear signal to the police and the justice system that ending widespread impunity for the perpetrators is a priority."

UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (ASG) and Deputy Emergency Coordinator Catherine Bragg, on a three-day visit to Haiti, yesterday visited camps for displaced people in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital, addressing in particular gender based violence.

"We take this issue very seriously and want to make sure that the perpetrators will be held to account," she said. "We will continue to take measures such as installing more lighting in camps, providing specialist services to survivors of sexual violence while the increasing presence of peacekeepers to help discourage such acts."

Replying to women's committee representatives who explained how the lack of income opportunities increases women's vulnerability, she noted that the UN is working with the Government and donors to address broader issues such as recovery, job creation, and building of schools to help get people back on their feet again.

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