UN expert calls for changed focus for 1.3 million quake survivors still in camps in Haiti

08:37, October 20, 2010      

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With 1.3 million people still living in spontaneously formed camps nine months after a massive earthquake that devastated Haiti, a United Nations expert on Tuesday called for a shift in the focus of humanitarian operations and more urgency in launching the reconstruction process.

"Haiti is still living through a profound humanitarian crisis that affects the human rights of those displaced by the disaster," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon's Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Walter Kaelin said after a visit to the small island country, noting that camp residents include both those who lost their homes and others fleeing poverty exacerbated by the January quake, which killed more than 200,000 people.

"Visiting some of the capital's worst slum areas, I also met many others outside camps, whose plight was less visible, but not less grave," he said. "People in the camps have specific needs, especially relating to shelter, which need to be addressed at the camp level."

"However, other urgent needs such as access to health, water, sanitation and education faced not only by the camp population but also by Haiti's poor should be addressed through a neighborhood approach," he said. "That way, the entire affected population has equal access in accordance with needs and people are not drawn into unsustainable camps."

Calling for more urgency for reconstruction process, Kaelin said the crisis needs a development solution, with the government facing the primary responsibility to communicate publicly a plan on how to provide durable solutions, while donors ensure early recovery funding for smaller-scale neighborhood reconstruction to begin.

Regarding the increasing number of forced evictions from private land, he stressed that there must not be any forced eviction without due process and reasonable alternatives, and "the government should publicly stand up for this principle," with the right to property balanced against the economic and social rights of the quake victims.

Meanwhile, Kaelin also voiced concern that pre-existing high levels of violence against women and children were being replicated in the camps.

"Rape is a serious concern in and outside the camps," he said. "While I encourage the Haitian National Police and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to increase its presence and patrols in the camps, this is only part of the solution."

"The government needs to send a clear signal to the police and the justice system that ending widespread impunity for the perpetrators is a priority," he added.

Source: Xinhua


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