An international aid organization says Haitians living in refugee camps set up after a devastating January earthquake are at risk of hunger, gang intimidation and rape.
Refugees International, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, made the claims in its latest field report, called "Haiti: Still Trapped in the Emergency Phase," just one day after former U.S. president Bill Clinton toured a Port-au-Prince camp.
On Thursday, it called for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to step in to provide security in the dangerous camps.
"People are being threatened by gangs, and women are getting raped," said Refugees International president Michel Gabaudan in a news release. "Practically, no one is available to communicate with the people living in these squalid camps and find better ways to protect them."
Refugees International says there are still 1,300 camps in Haiti, mostly run by the International Organization of Migration (IOM). It blames the IOM for not providing enough management or security officials. The IOM could not be immediately reached for comment.
"Whether or not UNHCR plays a large role … it's not really for us to decide," said UNHCR spokesperson Tim Irwin. "It's the lead agencies on the ground that would have to ask."
UNHCR workers weren't in Haiti before the earthquake struck, and the agency has limited resources, although it does have a "small number" of people in Haiti in an advisory role, Irwin said.
"In the absence of camp managers, self-appointed camp committees have sprung up," said Refugees International's Melanie Teff, who helped author the report. "In some cases, these are beneficial. But in others, these committees are made up of gang members, presenting themselves to aid workers as camp committees and intimidating camp residents,"
Teff said Haitians still living in camps often have "no one to turn to for help."
Clinton promises aid
During a visit to a sprawling camp for the homeless in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday, Clinton said desperately needed U.S. aid is coming to Haiti, despite delays.
Clinton, co-chair of the commission overseeing Haiti's reconstruction, expressed frustration with the slow delivery of promised funds by donors who have delivered about $732 million of a promised $5.3 billion in funds for 2010-11, along with debt relief.
Most notably absent is the United States, which has yet to deliver any of its promised $1.15 billion.
"First of all, in the next day or so, it will become obvious that the United States is making a huge down payment on that," the former U.S. president and husband of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters, without providing details.
"Secondly, I'm not too concerned — although I'm frustrated — because the Congress have approved the money that the secretary of state and the White House asked for."
Clinton listened to refugees in a hillside camp of 55,000 who complained of a lack of food, jobs and housing nine months after the earthquake.