PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s new president needs to lay out a long-term plan to relocate tens of thousands of Haitians living under tents and tarps, international aid group Oxfam said Tuesday.
The statement comes on the 18-month anniversary of the powerful earthquake that flattened much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities, which authorities say killed 300,000 and sent even more to live in impromptu settlements.
Efforts to dismantle the camps that popped up in the capital’s public plazas, soccer fields and streets have been put on hold as the new government led by President Michel Martelly struggles to get a prime minister approved by lawmakers. There are 634,000 people still living in the camps, the U.N.’s shelter committee said in May.
“We want a comprehensive approach done in an appropriate time frame,” said Cinta Pluma, a spokeswoman for Oxfam. Haiti’s displaced population “needs to be consulted and participate in the project.”
Patrick Rouzier, a reconstruction and housing adviser to the president, said the government plans to relocate 25,000 to 30,000 people from six major camps.
“I understand Oxfam’s position but we have a comprehensive plan that we are finalizing,” Rouzier said by telephone. “This has been in the works for the past three months. … We are on it 100 percent.”
Rouzier said the pilot project will bring camp dwellers back into their original neighborhoods but with better services.
In a separate project, Martelly unveiled a housing effort last month in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. It seeks to build 400 houses in 100 days.
Forced evictions by private landowners have increased since the earthquake, advocacy and aid groups say. In June, as the hurricane season officially began, the mayor of a city in the Port-au-Prince area evicted hundreds of people from three camps. Advocacy groups called for a moratorium on the evictions until alternative housing was provided.
Oxfam said Martelly has made progress by laying out housing plans, but that his government can’t evict camp dwellers without providing an alternative. The closing of the camps must be done so that the newly displaced have access to drinking water, sanitation services, health care, education and employment opportunities, Oxfam said.
The new administration has failed to make much headway since Martelly was inaugurated almost two months ago. Lawmakers rejected Martelly’s first pick for prime minister, which means the government has remained in limbo. Some of them have openly said they will reject his second pick, a former justice minister whom advocacy groups accused of persecuting political opponents.