Canada is going to help about 20,000 Haitians find rental housing or repair homes damaged in a 2010 earthquake, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda says.
The $19.9 million project to resettle families still living in Champs de Mars, a park across from Haiti's parliament building in Port-au-Prince, will exhaust the $220 million Haiti Emergency Relief Fund set up after the quake, Oda said Wednesday. Oda made the announcement the day before the two-year anniversary of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country, displacing 1.5 million people and destroying 250,000 homes.
"Canada’s commitment to the people who have been suffering for 24 months is that they will be resettled into neighbourhoods, and local small businesses, mostly owned by women, will be registered and re-established in neighbourhoods as well," Oda said in a conference call from Port-au-Prince.
Haitian President Michel Martelly said the Champs de Mars reconstruction sends a signal to Haitians and to the world know that life is getting back to normal, but admitted overall reconstruction has been slow. A five-month delay in parliament approving the prime minister left no government to lead rebuilding, Oxfam said in a report this week.
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The country is also still dealing with problems stemming from corruption. Martelly said it will take time to change things, but that he is leading by example.
"We are a new leadership and we understand that one of the reasons why Haiti has been going backwards is because of corruption, [which] has been legalized in the past. One of the fights that we want to have is against corruption. And that’s partly why we have decided to tour the world and talk to the people and reassure them, let them know that things are going to be different. We are a government who is going to be transparent," he said.
"Things are changing. There is a new way of doing business."
Gender-based violence in camps underreported
Earlier this week, Oxfam reported that shortfalls in donor country funding for Haiti are endangering half a million people still living in camps following the 2010 earthquake.
The report, one of several released by aid agencies around the two-year anniversary of the Jan.12 disaster, raises the issue of violence against women in the camps.
Figures released in the report show the UN got only 60 per cent of the money it needed for protection in 2010, and 51 per cent in 2011. That lack of protection funding "has hampered prevention of acts of gender-based violence that up to four per cent of women IDPs [internally displaced persons]
There are around 520,000 people living in tents and shelters, down from 1.5 million just after the earthquake.
Even before the earthquake, nearly 80 per cent of Haitians lived below the poverty line, and violence against women was rampant. But security is inadequate in the 758 camps that remain around the country, and rape is one of the problems that comes with that lack of security. Aid groups say they are doing what they can to prevent sexual assaults.
Save the Children has trained hundreds of child protection committees to serve as a neighbourhood watch in the camps, the organization’s Haiti country director said. The committees also try to make simple changes to protect the children in camps, such as having them sleep in groups with a couple of parents in the same tent, keeping children away from the tent door, sending them to the bathroom at night in groups and installing better lighting for latrines, he said.
"It continues to be an issue, another reason to try to get people out of these camps and closer to neighbourhoods," Gary Shaye said. "The camps are probably the most risky situation."
It's not the same as living in a community, he said, because there's less accountability with strangers who were thrown together in temporary living situations.
Reporting assaults is another problem. The aid community recognizes that incidents are underreported, he said, "because if you report an incident, you also put your family at risk," and there isn’t always a good place to report rapes and assaults.
"You report something, and you could have a gang leader on your doorstep threatening you the next day."
A spokeswoman for CARE Haiti said they do similar work with community committees, as well as assisting in getting victims to the police and supporting them through the legal process.
Mildrede Beliard said the committees are volunteers, but can track the changes they’re making in the camps. They ensure the violence is no longer hidden, she said.
"Since we have these committees working in camps with people … we have less cases of rape and violence in communities, in camps," Beliard said.