Haiti Quake

8 000 Hatians move to new camp

2010-04-08 15:48

Special Report

Port-au-Prince - The UN will move 8 000 Haitians out of a makeshift camp to a new site almost three months after a huge earthquake ravaged the country, officials said on Wednesday, but many more remain at risk as the rainy season approaches.

In a race against time, people left homeless by the January 12 earthquake will be moved from the Petionville golf club, which is prone to mudslides and flooding, to a new location 20km away.

The first few hundred of the 8 000 will be transferred on Saturday in a bid to get people re-housed in safer accommodation before the start of the rainy season in the stricken Caribbean nation.

"Everything is in place to receive the first persons on Saturday," said France Hurtubise, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "Their tents or their plastic huts are in places which are at risk of flooding or landslides."

The new site, which the UN says will eventually be able to house as many as 250 000 people, is called Corail and stands on 7 500 hectares of land to the north of the devastated capital Port-au-Prince.

UN officials have identified seven "high risk" camps that could be in peril during the rainy season followed by the hurricane season.

Permanent camps

An estimated 1.3 million people were left homeless by the deadly 7.0-magnitude earthquake which levelled parts of the capital, where hundreds of thousands of people still live in some 460 makeshift camps.

At the new site, those who survived the devastating quake which killed some 220 000 people will be given ready-to-walk-into tents - large shelters made out of wood and poles. Showers, toilets and services such as health offices will also be provided by various non-governmental organisations.

The Corail site even boasts a school, although it has not been officially recognised by the Haitian government.

Haitian authorities do not want to "take the risk that the camp becomes permanent", a UN source who asked not to be named said.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is also planning to distribute seed kits to those left destitute by the quake so they can plant vegetables for food.

UN officials have set April 15 as the target date for the relocation of about 38 000 people living in seven high-risk camps. Moving them to an alternative site is considered the last option by the organisation after encouraging them to return to their damaged homes or stay with host families proved unsuccessful.

Slum dwellers

Heavy rains only bring new misery, with the homeless left wading through the water, amid fears that diseases could quickly spread. The first heavy rains will be followed by the hurricane season beginning in early June.

"If just one child gets measles, there will be an epidemic in the camp," said Anne Chateaulain, co-ordinator for the emergency hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF).

Most officials fear that a new catastrophe could strike Haiti at any moment.

"There is a high risk of a tragedy if we don't move these sites... we will just have to hope that the rainy season will not be as bad as it has been in the past," said Hurtubise.

The head of the MSF mission in Haiti, Salha Issoufou, said that "there could be big problems, especially for those people who have no shelter today, and given that the city is still being cleaned up."

The situation is compounded by the increasing number of people leaving the slums to move closer to the makeshift camps to take advantage of the services offered by international organisations.

Read more on:    msf  |  ocha  |  wfp  |  haiti  |  haiti earthquake

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