In Haiti, more than 650,000 earthquake victims are still waiting for permanent housing after a year and a half in emergency camps, where they are now vulnerable to criminal violence and the summer storm season. The resettlement crisis is task number one for Haiti's new president, Michel Martelly.
Conditions in the camps are worsening. Cholera outbreaks are a daily threat. Dozens have already died in summer floods, trapped in flimsy tents that were not built to withstand the unforgiving storms. Insecurity and impunity have created an atmosphere primed for crime and banditry, and have contributed to an alarming increase in sexual violence against women. Even when complaints are filed, police rarely follow through with investigations, in part because of a lack of resources. More UN and Haitian National Police are urgently needed to patrol the camps in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Martelly also faces the additional challenge of a divisive political class that seems unaware that this is Haiti's moment of truth. Rather than rallying around the cause of reconstruction, much of Haiti's political leadership has engaged in unproductive partisan maneuvering. This was seen mere months after Martelly took office, when parliament rejected the president's pick for prime minister.
Resettling the remaining earthquake refugees will mean reconstruction on a massive scale, but rebuilding has been stymied, despite billions in aid. Donors, the international community and the government of Haiti have failed to agree on a comprehensive resettlement strategy, and the government has dithered on allocating land for construction. The task is complicated by the need to build more durable communities, able to withstand the next natural disaster.
Unless Haiti's government prioritizes reconstruction and resettlement, conditions in the camps are likely to continue deteriorating--but that doesn't mean that Haiti is on its own. Once Martelly's administration adopts a workable, national resettlement policy, the international community should commit to funding a substantial portion of it, and deliver.
I spoke with Mark Schneider, Crisis Group's Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America, about the challenges facing President Martelly. Click below for the audio of our conversation. For more on Haiti, check out the new report from the International Crisis Group, Post-quake Haiti: Security Depends on Resettlement and Development.