Many thanks to Peter van der Auweraert at IOM for bringing the below IOM Press Note, dated 02 July 2010, to my attention. It provides a rather vivid depiction of the less than constructive role of Port au Prince’s large landowners in the effort to provide transitional shelter to victims of the January earthquake (as alluded to yesterday in my post here).
When armed thugs allegedly hired by landowners threatened violence on IOM staff and support workers earlier this week, a sensitive operation to rescue families from a desperate situation came grinding to a halt.
Some 263 families cling precariously to life in Parc Fleurieux; their sad tents hug the bank of a football field that’s flooded with stagnant water contaminated by a nearby open sewer. Women wash their clothes in a muddy creek using water that emerges from the grime of Port-au-Prince . Naked children wander through the camp scratching at skin infections, while residents suffering from malaria and other illnesses sit bleary-eyed in their tents.
The Haitian Government, IOM, international and non-governmental actors agreed that the health situation of the group was critical and that urgent action was required to prevent a public health crisis. After discussion with the local mayor, a location was found on an informal space with room for extra families and work on preparing the site with gravel and drains began.
Once force was threatened during the voluntary relocation, the whole operation was called off pending negotiations with the landowner’s representatives. It was left to Renald, the 29-year old elected site representative to break the disappointing news to his fellow residents. An eloquent man who speaks fluent English and French and Creole, he says he has been both homeless and unemployed since the 12 January earthquake.