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Storms threaten Haiti’s homeless

As regular storms continue to pound the Atlantic basin, agencies are becoming increasingly concerned for the safety of the Haitian refugees living in tents. The hurricane season is due to run for another two months and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US has warned that this year is likely to prove a particularly bad one.

In Port-Au-Prince last week, one of this season’s storms killed 6 people and injured around 70. More than 10,000 families lost their tarpaulin or tent shelters. The resettlement camp at Corail-Cesselesse was particularly affected, though aid workers have been quick to distribute new shelter supplies. But it has made those helping in the camps extremely nervous about the vulnerability of all the families.

One mother who lost her tent to the storm was Louise Estela Nacius. With her five children, Louise has had to move into the tent of a neighbour, now that her second “home” this year has been toppled. With regular supplies of food and water and access to medical care and services, living conditions in the camp have been described by some as better than those many poor Haitians endured in their shanty towns. However, Louise still longs for a house again and says “we can’t spend our lives in a tent”.

But more than nine months after the earthquake, progress has been slow to clear Port-au-Prince. Some reckon that as little as 2% of the rubble from the earthquake has been removed. It is estimated that 25 million cubic metres of rubble lies across the capital and this would take around 1,000 trucks running non-stop over 1,000 days to remove. Apart from a lack of removal equipment and suitable dumping sites, progress to clear the rubble is also slow because it takes time to establish who owns certain areas of land, particularly in the absence of reliable records, and to gain permission for sites to be cleared.

Those involved in the reconstruction of Haiti are keen to involve local people in all decision-making and ensure any new building takes place under good-management and with proper organisation and legality. Certain decisions are also waiting for a new government. Elections are due to take place at the end of November.

This month the hip-hop singer, Wyclef Jean, dropped his bid to take part in the elections for president. The Haitian electoral council ruled that he could not run because he failed to meet residency requirements, which stipulate any candidates must have lived in Haiti five years prior to an election. Wyclef Jean now lives in the US and has decided not to continue his appeal. But he hopes that his bid has helped raise awareness of the democratic process and encouraged people to take part in the election. And he has vowed to continue fighting behind the scenes to ensure that the best possible government is installed in Haiti so its people have better hopes for their future.

Laurinda Luffman signature