One million are forced to sleep out in the open
Published 26/01/2010 | 05:00
AS many as one million people -- one person in nine across the entire country -- urgently need to find new shelter in Haiti, the United Nations said last night.
The organisation also warned that there were too few tents, let alone safe buildings, to put them in. That leaves about 700,000 other people living on the streets around Port-au-Prince under whatever they can salvage.
In the case of Jean Anthony's family, that's a blue plastic tarpaulin for a ceiling and a faded pink sheet with a floral print border for two walls.
"I'm not sure what you'd call it, but it's much more than terrible," said Anthony, the 60-year-old owner of a collapsed restaurant. Thousands of people were camped around him yesterday across from the National Palace, amid piles of trash and the stench of human waste.
"We live like dogs," said Espiegle Amilcar, an unemployed 34-year-old who has been staying under a sheet of plastic nearby.
Aid organisations say they are collecting tents, but few so far are in evidence. And the International Organisation for Migration, an intergovernmental agency, says it could take experts weeks to search out suitable sites for enough tent cities to hold earthquake refugees.
Vincent Houver, the Geneva-based agency's chief of mission in Haiti, said on Sunday that the agency's warehouse in Port-au-Prince held 10,000 family-size tents, but he estimated 100,000 were needed.
The organisation has appealed for $30m (€21m) to pay for tents and other aid needs and has received two-thirds of that so far, he said. Haiti's government wants many of the homeless to leave the capital city of two million people, to look for better shelter with relatives or others elsewhere.
Officials estimate that about 235,000 have taken advantage of its offer of free transport to leave the city, and many others left on their own, some even walking.
Haiti's government claimed that it was ready to lead the relief and reconstruction effort.
Speaking at a conference on the tragedy in Montreal yesterday, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said: "Haitians continue to work in precarious conditions but it is in the position to assume the leadership expected of it by its people in order to relaunch the country on the path to reconstruction."
But with squabbles breaking out between some countries on the effectiveness of the relief effort so far, Mr Bellerive nonetheless insisted that his country would continue to need "massive" assistance in the wake of the 7.0-magnitude quake, which struck two weeks ago.
He said Haiti needed the world to stick with it for at least five to 10 years. (© Independent News Service)