Floods threaten 200,000 Haitian quake survivors

As the rainy season approaches in Haiti, over 200,000 homeless people are at risk of severe flooding in camps. The Haitian government and the UN are seeking emergency alternatives to stave off a second disaster.

The Cité du Soleil camp in Port-au-Prince
The Cité du Soleil camp in Port-au-Prince Reuters

Two months after the 12 January earthquake, the full number of homeless people in Haiti has reached some 1.3 million. But the UN regards 218,000 people in 21 Port-au-Prince camps as being the most at risk of major flooding.

The government is struggling to buy land to set up emergency camps outside the capital. These fields would take up to six weeks to turn into viable sites and a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said moving people is a last resort.

Those with houses still standing are being encouraged to return home, but many are still traumatised and architects and engineers have to assess which buildings are structurally sound. Others are being advised to move home and camp if a safe plot can be found, while some 600,000 people have opted to move in with host families.

Only when these possibilities are exhausted are those at risk in Port-au-Prince flood plains being recommended to relocate outside the capital.

Santo 17, the first planned site with an initial capacity for 14,000 people opened on Saturday at Croix-des-Bousquets, 13 kilometers north-east of the capital.

Many in the camps do not want to move so far and discontentment appears to be growing against aid workers who the Haitians say paid few visits and asked questions without providing solutions.

The UN is confident that they would meet a self-imposed 1 May deadline to able to provide tarps and tents to all in need, claiming to be on target with the distribution of shelter to date, having covered 63 per cent of the people affected. They have admitted that all they can do is provide alternatives and Haitians will have to look after themselves when the deluge comes.

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