ERC Amos concerned over humanitarian gaps in Haiti

30 September, 2011
USG Valerie Amos meets IDP living in Accra camp in Port-au-Prince during her recent mission to Haiti. Credit: UNICEF/Marco Dormino
USG Valerie Amos meets IDP living in Accra camp in Port-au-Prince during her recent mission to Haiti. Credit: UNICEF/Marco Dormino

ERC Valerie Amos completed her visit to Haiti today. Yesterday, Ms. Amos visited the Accra camp, which hosts 25,500 people in the commune of Delmas. She spoke to residents, who expressed fears of eviction and indicated they have no other housing options available to them. She met with representatives of the camp’s women´s committee, who highlighted the daily challenges of caring for their families in an environment where there is a lack of job opportunities and confined spaces and poor lighting contribute to high levels of gender-based violence.

A tour of the camp highlighted the very difficult living conditions. Funding gaps have resulted in reductions in the number of humanitarian agencies working in key sectors such as water and sanitation and camp management. Hundreds of latrines are now unusable. The overflowing latrines, particularly during this rainy season, pose significant health risks, including spread of cholera.

Ms. Amos noted that although the number of displaced people in camps has decreased by over 60 per cent during the last year, alternatives for the 600,000 remaining in nearly 900 camps are scarce. According to the latest International Organization for Migration (IOM) survey of the camp population, most families in camps want to leave but cannot pay for accommodation or to repair damaged houses.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator also visited the first ever sewage treatment center in Haiti. The Center addresses critical sanitation needs, including mitigating cholera risks for camps as well as the wider population in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. The project, managed under the Haitian water authority with support from the United Nations, was kick started with a grant from the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). More than 6,300 Haitians have died and 450,000 have been affected since last October by a cholera epidemic.

Ms. Amos urged donors to provide additional funding for the 2011 revised humanitarian appeal, stressing that “we cannot forget the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people still in camps’. The appeal seeks $382 million, but has only received 52 per cent of the funds needed.

Beyond immediate needs, Ms. Amos also called for a better approach to linking humanitarian and development requirements. "The scale of destruction and suffering caused by the earthquake and the cholera epidemic, combined with Haiti’s high vulnerability to natural disasters, are the visible part of the iceberg. What we need is more strategic decision making and coordination that looks at improving longer term structural issues".