Isaac highlights plight of Haitians still housed in camps since 2010 earthquake

Thursday, August 30, 2012
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Port-au-Prince: Tropical storm Isaac highlighted the plight of   390.000 people still housed in 575 tent camps remaining since a 2010 earthquake

Cite Soleil in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince was among the areas worst hit by tropical storm Isaac last Saturday (25 August).

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) response to tropical storm Isaac saw a rapid and coordinated reaction, in which the most vulnerable people in camps were evacuated well before the storm struck the country.

Thousands of people were taken to safety by Haitian Civil Protection (DPC) and IOM before and during the storm. "Lycee National" in Cite Soleil became a temporary shelter even before the storm arrived.

Ester Ruiz De Azua from Camp Management Operation Unit of IOM, informs, "The people from 18 camps were especially identified at high risk for flooding that are very affected in this case of heavy rains. They were -the families that wanted to leave- to shelters where they would have, during the storm, some safer place to be. They were transported there and then the Civil Protection and Haitian Red Cross were managing those centres."

The storm highlighted the urgent need to close the 575 camps remaining since the 2010 earthquake and provide adequate shelter for 390,000 people still living under tarps and in tents. 200 people were moved initially but the number keeps on growing as the days go by.

"We are here because of the cyclone. Our tent was destroyed and now we are on the street. The wind took away the roof panel, some people even got wounded by it. There were even thieves who took what was left of the tent. We are on the street and IOM has brought us here," articulated one of the displaced persons, Deniez Emesieu.

Altogether displaced people from 3 camps were transported to the school here in Cite Soleil as a temporary shelter. The most vulnerable families have found a dry place to stay.

Rosemond Joseph, who is a coordinator at camp Immaculee, says, "For 3 years, people have been living in a miserable situation in tents. And now they are even more miserable because the bandits took everything while the people were absent. We are asking the international and national actors to help us in the fastest way possible. Here, we are in a school where we can't stay forever. We have to leave after the cyclone, but to where will we be going?"

IOM teams assessed the damage to camps and responded to urgent health and protection needs immediately. By 27th August they had helped 5,210 households.

The Emergency Shelter and the Camp Coordination Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster coordinated the assessment and response in the camps. The UN and humanitarian agencies on the ground worked together to meet the most immediate needs of the affected population.

IOM distribution teams provided 5,100 kits among the victims so far – including plastic sheets to enable them to rebuild their tents and hygiene kits. 

Another displaced - Destime Gerald, said, "My house was destroyed by the cyclone. I left my house to go to another one close by. I am going to arrange it. Now they give me the plastic sheets, I will repair it."    

At the "Ecole Nationale Republique du Perou" in Martissant, people were already getting ready to leave their temporary shelter to go back to their camp.   

"We are very happy for all IOM did for us. They took us during the cyclone, under the rain, because we could not stay there any longer. It was too hard. Here we have eaten and drunk till now," praised an unidentified displaced person.

The well-coordinated response to the first major storm of the hurricane season signalled a new level of preparedness by the authorities. It followed months of preparatory work by Haiti and its international partners to build resilience into the civil protection system. In many cases, it was well-trained camp vigilance committees who ensured that the evacuation of vulnerable people, distribution of aid and the returns went smoothly. -Unifeed
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