A new ActionAid report has today warned that Haiti’s reconstruction could cost an additional £32 million in emergency replacement tents, unless the Haitian government and international donors – the US, Canada, France, Spain and the EU – address the land problem that has critically hampered the nation’s re-build. The report, Building for the future, comes one year after the 7.0 magnitude quake displaced 2.3 million people.
"Aid agencies have the money and the means to help re-build Haiti’s homes. But until the government frees up the land needed, we are forced to spend donations on replacing tents and other piecemeal measures designed to help people get by in overcrowded camps," said Jean Claude Fignole, ActionAid’s Country Director in Haiti.
“Re-building after a disaster of this magnitude was always going to be a marathon not a sprint, but to have well over a million people still living under canvas or in shacks with no hope of moving on one year after the quake is unacceptable.”
In Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, between 1.3 and 1.7 million people continue to live in increasingly squalid tents with little hope of moving to transitional shelters – semi-permanent homes made from plywood with steel frames and corrugated plastic sheeting for roofs. Less than 30,000 of those displaced have found permanent homes.
There is no strategic plan for shelter, land disputes are widespread and tons of rubble still needs clearing, much of which is thought to contain human remains.
“No one should live like this,” says Josephmona, a quake victim living in Port-au-Prince.
“When it rains our tent leaks and at night it’s very cold. The government doesn’t seem interested. If we wait for them to act we will die before it happens.”
The UN’s Shelter Cluster in Haiti, a group of UN and government representatives, international and local charitable organisations, say that to enable large-scale shelter construction and ultimately permanent homes, issues of safe relocation sites, debris removal and planning processes must be urgently addressed by the government.
ActionAid is urging the Haitian government and international donors to invest in a system of land reform that would redistribute multiple plots of land to poor communities and provide much needed social housing – government subsidised homes let at low rents and on a secure basis to people in housing need.
In September 2010 the Haitian government used emergency powers to appropriate private land to build government buildings, shops and offices in urban areas. ActionAid is urging them to apply the same sense of urgency to the housing issue.
“When it’s in the government’s interest we know they can move with astonishing rapidity. It’s time they applied the same sense of urgency to re-homing their people.” said Fignole.
The government’s plans to relocate tens of thousands of people to large sites miles outside of the capital have been met with concern. Ex-Haitian Head of State Francois Duvalier tried and failed this approach in the 1950’s with a ‘super city’ built 50 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Today around 80 percent of its inhabitants are thought to be without work and with limited education and health services.
photo : ©Charles Eckert/ActionAid