HAITI - EVACUATION OF VULNERABLE FAMILIES FROM MALARIAL SWAMP BEGINS
(ReliefWeb) Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
An emergency evacuation of some 1,300 people living in dangerous conditions in a malarial swamp of Port-au-Prince finally got underway this week when the Government of Haiti ordered the closure of the camp.
IOM officials began drawing attention to the unsafe state of Parc Fleurieux some time ago. Because of the danger of flooding from a polluted lake, an evacuation was ordered. IOM worked closely with government officials, local authorities and other humanitarian agencies to find a more suitable alternative accommodation for the residents.
The drawn-out process finally came to a close yesterday morning when removal vans and busses pulled up outside the site. By pre-arrangement, a Haitian Boy Scout troop arrived to help with the relocation. IOM camp managers, protection and registration specialists as well as community mobilizers were on hand to oversee the move. A group of UN peacekeepers ensured it proceeded without disturbance.
"I'm worried about floods and wind," said André Joseph-Venel, 58, a father of six. He's been living beside the malarial swamp that abuts the camp since 12 January when his house collapsed. He was reassured the by camp committee president Reynald Derazin that "anywhere has got to be better than here."
A couple of hours later, the most vulnerable members of the Parc Fleurieux boarded minibuses while their few belongings followed in two large removal vans.
There have been tensions in Corail at the prospect of new arrivals. IOM facilitated negotiations between the camp committee and the Haitian government as well as other humanitarian actors.
Those already living in Corail were offered transitional shelters along with the prospect of jobs to help build their new homes. Their objections largely evaporated and by early Thursday morning, the move was already underway.
MINUSTAH provided security with Bangladeshi women police and Peruvian UN peacekeepers. As the day wore on row upon row of tan coloured tents were erected on a once bare field by IOM staff who pitched in to help.
By mid afternoon, an inquisitive group of Corail camp residents wandered across fields to find out more about their new neighbours.
Fifty one vulnerable families, or 161 people, have now settled in Corail and the relocation is scheduled to continue over the weekend.
The challenges in locating appropriate sites explain why so many Haitians remain under canvas six months after the earthquake.
Most of the available land was quickly settled by the 1.5 million homeless. In some cases, local landowners who had initially welcomed the displaced are now asking them to leave, with evictions reportedly on the rise. As a result many communities are now living on unsuitable land that's vulnerable to flooding or is dangerously exposed. In one part of the capital Port-au-Prince, people are camped out on the meridian of the highway.
Reynald Derazin summed up the sentiment in the camp: "Look where we are now," he said and pointed to a group of women washing clothes in a polluted dirty stream. "Do you think that this is a dignified life, we have no alternative but to take our chances and go to Corail, if only for the sake of our children and the elderly? What we now need are jobs as most people have spent whatever savings they had in order to survive the past few months in this terrible place."