Too Soon for Carnival: Sweeping Haiti's 400,000 Poor Back Under the Rug
Huffington Post - By Mark Schuller - July 8, 2012

For those who haven't been to Haiti for a while, or for those who have
never been but have seen the hell on earth portrayed in the media, the
fact that Champs-de-Mars and other plazas in Port-au-Prince are no
longer home to thousands of people is a symbol of progress.

Celebrating this "liberation" of public spaces, President Martelly is
planning a Carnival des Fleurs, a tradition under Duvalier, scheduled
to begin July 29, a day after the anniversary of the 1915 U.S.

For the 390,276 people the International Organization for Migration
(IOM) estimates who are still under ripped sheets of plastic or tarp,
it's too soon to celebrate.

Many believe this relocation of camps on highly-visible areas is akin
to sweeping the garbage off the floor only to have it out of sight and
out of mind, in someone else's backyard. Where are people going?

For its part, the IOM is keeping track of people they have relocated
in the 16/6 program. But the 16/6 camps only account for 5 percent of
the total camp population.

And for the others? "Nou pa konnen." We don't know.

We do know that places like M?n Lopital are sites for thousands of new
residents inching ever farther up the mountainside, in crowded
shantytowns. Kanaran, a long stretch of desert land in the outskirts
of town, is still growing -- no one knows how many people live there.
I've heard estimates of 130,000 to 180,000 people but IOM has never
done a census.

Like piles of garbage swept aside and neglected, away from the main
plazas and busy thoroughfares are camps that are real, all too real.
And they are not going away any time soon.

Among the eight camps in my study last summer, for example, HANCHO,
Karade, and Kolonbi are already well on their way to becoming
shantytowns, the Cit? Soleils (which recently was upgraded to a
"yellow zone") of the next generation. Some residents are beginning to
erect walls or concrete foundations for their homes, some now made of
scrap metal instead of tarp. A common denominator is that they are all
hidden, on land that is relatively secure - many owned by former
military members long in exile -- and of no strategic interest to
investors or tourism promoters.

Unfortunately they also have in common an even increasing
deterioration of the ripped sheets of plastic that are people's homes
and primary services such as water. In Kolonbi, the IOM finally took
out the latrines that hadn't been cleaned for months in February (they
later opened a cholera treatment center). But new people -- arriving
as the 16/6 program began -- pitched their tent right on top of the
former site that still exudes a strong smell. The Red Cross's work to
reinforce the walls on the ravine, where people now throw their
excrement, has been stopped for several months.

Toilets have also been removed in HANCHO, as well as a few residents,
including the only family who sold hot meals. A walk through the
windy, dusty camp reveals most tents -- in much worse condition than
before -- occupied, with people singing, listening to the radio,
washing clothes, cooking, or reading. A former army officer is
reclaiming part of the space to build a factory; 15 families are at
imminent risk of forced relocation since last Tuesday. With no
relocation assistance or mediation from the IOM, they wait daily for
the order to move, hoping it won't come in the middle of the night and
accompanied by arson or machetes like other recent cases. Some may
pitch their tent somewhere else in the camp, clearing the weeds where
goats graze.

In Karade, trees planted since the earthquake are now higher than many
tents, offering some shade. And Frisline, whom I've known since 2003,
proudly shared a banana from her yard. But there is still no clinic
and it is still a 20 minute walk to get the water stationed outside
the camp and outside the Delmas city limits, in front of the
t-shelters installed by CRS for those displaced from St. Louis.

Frisline, who has had to twice buy new tarps, either suffocates in the
heat trapped inside the fraying tarps or opens a flap, inviting dust
to blow inside the tent. Karade is on a hill where the wind almost
constantly kicks up dust. Since no one has invested in roads, rains
mean a treacherous trek back home or even a mudslide. More than a
dozen tents have been moved because the rains have eroded the ground
by the ravine.

Kolonbi, HANCHO, and Karade are by no means unique. Large camps are
still tucked away among Port-au-Prince's teeming shantytowns,
hillsides or valleys, like Acra (there are four camps bearing the name
of this wealthy family), KID, Bourdon, Solino, M?n Silo, Cineas...

Given the more complex realities, not to mention living under sheets
of plastic ripped by another rainy season on top of the hottest summer
in recent memory, it's too soon to celebrate. Where are people going?
And are they living better than before? And what about those who

Individual solutions may work well for those who made it on the list,
but for the rest, only a collective social policy will be able to do
more than sweep the problem onto someone else's doorstep. On Monday,
an international campaign was launched to ask the Haitian government
and donors to build quality social housing and stop forced eviction
until said housing is built.