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Following Haiti’s earthquake in January 1.3 million people are homeless. They are spread across 200 camps and they live in desperately precarious situations. As the rainy season arrives it is essential to resettle these vulnerable people.
“These tents are spacious! At least we’ll stay dry tonight. But we’re so far from the centre of the city…” says Franz Altidor.
Along with his mother, brother and sister, Franz is one of the many homeless who are taking their chances on the windy plains of La Corail. This is where people have been sent from camps in Port-au-Prince which are at risk of flooding.
Holding his travel bag in his hands, teenage Franz takes in the scene. There is a UN tractor flattening out the ground, helicopters come and go overhead and rows of latrines poke out from the rock and sand. Over 7,500 people will come to live at La Corail over the coming days.
Pétionville Club in Port-au-Prince has become a hive of activity to prepare for the migration of earthquake survivors. Aid agency staff come and go, staff arrange convoys to transport those who are leaving and meanwhile, other people are still arriving. Caritas partially runs the camp and really has its work cut out with all the activity.
“Since it’s started raining every night life has become unbearable here,” says Carmelle Lodan. “Water comes into the tents and floods us out. We have to spend most of the night standing! We can’t even sleep. I don’t know if things will be better in the new camp, but we have to try.”
Carmelle is in a hurry to get the document which will allow her to leave the muddy avenues of Pétionville and will let her go to the La Corail. There are other alternatives but most people want to go to La Corail. People whose houses have been declared habitable are encouraged to go home.
“Going back home is out of the question,” says Jeannette Simeon, holding a resettlement coupon in her hand. “They said my house is safe but I know there are cracks.”
“I’m afraid for myself and my children. At least in the camp we’ll have basic services, schools and security. To be honest, I don’t know what it will be like, but things are so bad here that I prefer to leave,” says Jeannette.
Jeanette, like others, is also swayed by the fact that at the camp there are distributions of hygiene kits, food rations and money through the cash-for-work programme.
It may be vital to make the camp less over-crowded, but it’s also important that it’s cleaned up and made safer for those who stay. At Pétionville, as at a number of other sites in Port-au-Prince, teams employed under cash-for-work schemes dig trenches and ditches and build more roads on the hills of the camp.
In the coming weeks, a second alternative site will be able to house 1500 people from other camps whic h are at risk from the coming rains.