New plan for Haiti’s earthquake homeless: move back to destroyed neighbourhoods
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Relief officials have changed tack and are urging Haiti’s earthquake homeless to return to their destroyed neighbourhoods as the rainy season fast approaches.
Officials had initially planned to build big camps outside Portau-Prince. They still anticipate creating some settlements, but they decided this week to instead emphasize getting people to pack up their tents and tarps and go home.
For that to be possible, authorities will need to demolish hundreds if not thousands of buildings and remove mountains of rubble.
downpour Thursday evening gave a taste of the approaching rainy season and the problems it will bring. People dashed for shelter down streets streaming with runoff while trash clogged gutters and turned depressions into ponds.
Haiti’s government weather service lifted its warning of heavy rains Friday morning, but advised people to remain vigilant as chilly winds and dark clouds moved through Port-au-Prince.
Floods and mudslides threaten hundreds of thousands living in camps, and many dwellings are severely damaged or clinging to the sides of hillsides.
Some of the hundreds of Haitians who lined up at a down- town site Thursday to register for the new campaign to resettle many of the 1.2 million homeless back in their old neighbourhoods expressed skepticism about the plan. Relief officials also acknowledged the immense challenges.
“ There will be flooding. There will be discomfort, misery. And that’s not avoidable,” a top U.N. official for Haiti, Anthony Banbury, told a New York news conference this week.
Camp dwellers — the capital alone has some 770,000 — welcomed the idea of swapping flimsy makeshift tents in the city’s fetid centre for something more stable. But that didn’t mean they wanted to return to their quake- ravaged neighbourhoods.
The International Organization for Migration began registration at the plaza Wednesday, collecting people’s old addresses in hopes that most can be resettled relatively quickly in their old neighbourhoods.
The camp is home to some 60,000 people and was chosen to begin registration because about 45 per cent of its residents come from a single Port-au-Prince neighbourhood, Turgeau, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Blackwell, who is involved in coordinating the plan.
Not everyone will be able to return to their neighbourhood, but relief officials expect to know within two weeks who can after determining which structures are viable and which must be demolished, Blackwell said.
Mark Turner, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said that “this is the big new strategy, our big push right now” — to decongest overcrowded and unsanitary camps. “Most people have some kind of tent or structure. We want to be able to tell people, ’Just pack it up and take it home.”’
Haitian President Rene Preval described the new plan Thursday to visiting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, saying the idea is to create small camps of 50-100 tents.