Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why after all this time there are still people living in camps?

The earthquake of January 2010 displaced 1.5 million people who sought shelter and assistance in over 1500 temporary camps. The sheer scale of this displacement continues to challenge the humanitarian community as 519,000 people continue for face daily life in these temporary settlements. It should be noted however that camp populations have decreased by 66% over two years which means approximately 1 million people have found solutions that have allowed them to leave camps.

2. How many people are still living in the camps?

The latest figures from the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in November 2011 indicate that 519,000 people still live in 758 camps.

3. There are suggestions that many of the IDP's left in the camps are squatters? Who are they? Why are they still in the camps?

The method of information collection for the DTM reduces the opportunity for families or individuals to maintain a presence within a camp shelter whilst living elsewhere. With any large displacement globally there are usually accusations that some people are opportunists 'pretending' to be displaced in order to receive free services. The fact is that displacement camps in Haiti no longer receive any free services to speak of and most people have to live in overcrowded conditions in deteriorating emergency shelter with substandard sanitation facilities. Additionally, people living in camps are faced with daily threats to their and their family members' safety and security. Given the current living conditions in camps, if those displaced people had a slightly better housing choice, they probably would have left by now.

However, if you are asking whether there are some opportunists living in camps I would say it is quite possible. But if you are asking whether the majority of the 519,000 people living in deteriorating camp conditions are opportunists, I would say absolutely not.

It is extremely important that the continuing needs of this large and vulnerable displaced population are not overshadowed by naïve and generalised accusations of opportunism.

4. What is going to happen to people that are still in camps? When are they expected to leave?

Efforts to assist camp populations in finding solutions to displacement continue and we hope to see a significant reduction in 2012. We need to be aware that reconstruction will take a significant amount of time and there are questions about how the 77% of former tenants within the camp populations can benefit from new house construction. In order to further facilitate a responsible programme of return and camp closure, tens of thousands of additional solutions will be required with particular focus of continued Transitional Shelter and increased Rental Assistance. These activities can continue to allow further departures from camps with the Transitional Shelter element serving to bridge the gap between camp departure and permanent housing reconstruction.

5. How many people left the camps since Jan 2010?

Approximately 1 million (1,500,000 – 519,000).

6. Where did they go to?

It was impossible to track the movement of one million people in a post-emergency environment.

What we do have is data from the movement of families who were assisted to leave camps through camp-based Return Programs. This data can be used as somewhat indicative of the movement overall and shows that families took diverse approaches and went in myriad directions: Many returned to their old neighbourhoods however some have sough alternative accommodation in new areas.

7. Are people being consulted about where they want to go to?

Freedom of choice is an important part of any assisted return strategy.

Before releasing rental subsidies, the houses proposed by the beneficiaries are checked by NGOs to verify: 1) that they are structurally safe 2) that the owner is the real owner. Also the beneficiaries are provided with a template rental contract that will have to be signed by both renter, landlord and by a representative of the Mairie.

8. How are you making sure people go back to their old neighbourhoods?

People are not made to go anywhere that they do not want to go to. If a displaced person wishes to move to a new area then they are free to do so.

9. What are exactly the T-shelters?

A T-Shelter or 'Transitional Shelter' is a temporary house (often made from wood and tin sheeting) designed to last for 3-5 years allowing safe and secure occupancy by a family who has suffered the loss of their home. A transitional shelter approach was adopted in Haiti in recognition that reconstruction will take a number of years and that emergency shelter (tents and plastic sheeting) is not durable enough to accommodate the homeless for this long.

10. Why would you move people to T-shelters instead of permanent housing?

It will take a number of years to rebuild all the homes destroyed by the earthquake and it is not acceptable to expect the displaced and homeless to occupy light emergency shelters for the entirety of this period. Transitional solutions can be used to bridge a gap by providing secure homes for those who have lost their houses through to the completion of reconstruction initiatives. Transitional shelters are quick to build and are not subject to the same land and tenure issues that can hamper permanent housing initiatives.

As permanent reconstruction progresses we may see a reduced need for transitional shelters but it is critical that the correct balance between rapid delivery transitional shelter constructions and longer term permanent housing development. This is particularly important if we want to continue facilitating departures from emergency camps.

11. Who is building these T-shelters?

About 50 NGOs built T-Shelters over the last two year.

ACTED, American Red Cross, ActionAid, Acts of Mercy, Adra Europe, Adra intl, ARC, Architecte de l'Urgence, ASB, Canadian Red Cross, Care, Cordaid, CHF, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, CROSE, CRS, Caritas, CRWRC, Danish People's Aid, Food for the Hungry, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Austrian Red Cross, GIZ, GOAL, Habitat for Humanity, Fondation de France, Handicap International, HAVEN, HELP, Haitian Red Cross, IOM, IRD, Islamic Relief, Medair, MOFKA, Netherland Red Cross, Première Urgence, Project Concern, Salvation Army, Samaritan's Purse, Spanish Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Tear Fund, Un Techo Para Mi Pais, UNOPS, WHH, World Concern, World Vision.

12. How much does a T-shelter cost?

A T-Shelter cost vary from USD 1300-USD1500 (A complete wooden structure ~18SqM area) to USD2200-USD2800 (Steel frame & wooden or hard board wall cladding). Cost difference is due to quite a few reasons for instance:

  • Geographical location. If it's a hilly area logistic cost is slightly higher than flat areas which ultimately increases the final cost of Shelter
  • In some cases, cost also increase due to overheads. If the project volume is small, the cost of shelters may be higher as the Project management & operation cost remains almost the same if Project teams monitor the execution of 200 Shelters or 2000. Similarly contracts can be better negotiated if the volume of contract is large, hence as a result you may find the cost of Shelter provided by an organization with a small number of Shelters, relatively high & vice versa.

13. Why to use a steel frame expensive solution instead of wooden frame economical one?

Due to many reasons including the concern of time efficiency, future maintenances, future expansion in area or conversion to permanent house, double life span and acceptability of end users.

14. Do people have to pay to move in to the T-shelters?

No. However some families choose to live in a T-Shelter that has been provided on land that they rent from a private landlord.

15. Many of these T-shelters don't have sanitation facilities, in a country that has already suffered from a cholera outbreak, why would you built T-shelters with no toilets?

A lack of adequate sanitation in many areas remains a persistent issue across Haiti and this includes both camps and some areas of return. The E-Shelter & CCCM Cluster coordination unit continues to liaise with the WASH cluster in an effort to ensure that returning families have access to improved sanitation. Transitional shelter providers are strongly encouraged to ensure that families benefitting from T-Shelters also have adequate access to sanitation facilities either by developing directly or working in partnership with WASH organisations. Although many return areas are lacking in sanitation facilities they are generally better than camps where there is an average of 94 persons for every latrine - many of which are only emergency units approaching the end of their life.

16. What are the criteria for people to move to a T-shelter?

Different cluster members apply different criteria to their beneficiary selection but as a generalisation, beneficiaries are earthquake affected families who no longer have access to their pre-earthquake home.

17. Till when are people going to stay in this T-shelter, since it's a temporary solution?

T-Shelters generally have a lifespan of 3-5 years without upgrading and relatively minor upgrades can significantly increase the life in many cases. As T-Shelters are designed to fill the gap between emergency shelter and permanent reconstruction, the continued occupancy is directly related to progress in reconstructing and repairing an adequate number of accessible homes. Due to the severity of the earthquake and high level of damage to housing stock, it should be anticipated that T-Shelters will be occupied for several years in many cases.

18. What can they expect to happen after?

There are several options for accessing durable permanent housing including the repair or reconstruction of homes for those that owned their own houses and the development of new homes as part of larger scale housing development schemes.

A key challenge is ensuring access to rental houses for those who were tenants before the earthquake. In addition to losing their own homes, many small scale landlords suffered the loss of their rental houses resulting in a loss of income and limited means to repair or reconstruct. This has resulted in a lack of rental stock generally and 77% of camp populations are former tenant families. Encouraging private initiative in making homes available to displaced tenant families is an important part of the recovery process.

19. Are they any other housing solution? Which ones?

The palette of options on housing ranges from tents and emergency shelters passes through transitional shelter and rental subsidies and extends to construction and repair of permanent housing. All of the above solutions can be implemented with a variety of methodologies with different degree of beneficiary participation.

20. How much money and how do people get money to pay for the rents?

Rental Assistance initiatives are playing an increasing part in facilitating departures from camps by assisting families with limited means in accessing available rental houses. A common approach is to offer financial assistance of up to 500 USD to cover 1 years rent with secured tenancy under a multi party agreement.

21. What happens when people get evicted from the camps or plot of land? - What are you doing to prevent people from being evicted?

The best way to tackle evictions is to prevent them by engaging in discussions with the landlords in order to understand their priorities, needs and timing. What frustrates landlords is the lack of clarity on weather or not IDP families are ever going to vacate their land. An overarching and fully funded return and relocation strategy tackling all people displaced in camps would certainly allow for an orderly and progressive closure of camps according to set priorities.

22. Why don't we see visible signs of reconstruction when so much money was supposedly assigned for it?

There are significant signs of reconstruction but we need to be realistic about the amount of time and the cost that this process will take. One of the most visible indications of progress is the removal of the vast amounts of rubble that choked many earthquake affected areas.

23. What was done in terms of reconstruction?

Progress figures provided to the Cluster Coordination unit indicate that 4,769 houses have been constructed and 13,578 have been repaired as of December 2011.

24. Why haven't the red houses been demolished?

The city of PAP has changed significantly since the earthquake. The amount of fully damaged houses was astonishing. A lot has been done up until now, more will have to be done in the coming months.

There has also been resistance from some families who do not want assistance to demolish their houses unless the agency involved also promises to rebuild a permanent house in its place. This may sound unreasonable, but some families see their dangerous house, in some sense, as leverage making them more likely to receive a new house once such programs scale up. More worryingly, many families continue to live in unsafe houses and will not have anywhere to live if it is demolished with no prospect of a replacement. Until there is large-scale availability of new house reconstruction, demolition will continue to be an issue.

25. What is the Cluster? What does it do?

A Cluster is a representative term for a group of assisting organisations linked by a common activity I.E. Shelter, Camp Management, WASH, Health or Education. These organisations have shown a commitment to coordinating with each other and wider stakeholders by agreeing to be a member of a particular Cluster.

A Cluster Coordination Unit is a group of specialists tasked by the cluster membership to assist with overall coordination activities. In many cases, a single organisation is designated as the Cluster Lead and they are responsible for ensuring adequate human, material and financial resources are provided to maintain the Cluster Coordination Unit to provide services to the wider cluster membership. In the case of the Haiti E-Shelter & CCCM Cluster, IOM is the Cluster Lead.

26. Is it true that many NGO'S are leaving Haiti?

Some NGO's are ceasing operations in Haiti and others are reducing their involvement in particular activities. Many organisations have ceased T-Shelter activities due to lack of available funding or a refocusing of their activities in other areas. 2012 probably represents the last opportunity to capitalise on the significant T-Shelter construction capacity that has so far housed 420,000 people.

27. What is happening with the symbolic area of Champ-de-Mars? When will it be cleared?

Champs de Mars is the latest camp to be funded for a Return Program. There are almost 5000 families in Champs de Mars, all of whom will be offered a tailored solution. Each family can choose what kind of assistance they require based on whether they have a yellow house in need of repair; a red house in need of demolition and reconstruction; or if they do not own a home and are in need of a rental solution.

The program will be officially announced on January 11th 2012 and is scheduled to take 8 months.

As well as the camp-based elements of the program, there is also funding for: rebuilding every red and yellow home in an associated neighbourhood; investments in social infrastructure (roads, drainage, health, education or other choice); training of local masons and carpenters; community development planning and income generation activities.

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Bradley Mellicker
Coordinateur du Cluster
+509 3702-7593

Lorenza Rossi
Gestion de l'information
+509 3701-4864

Rafaëlle Robelin
Emergency preparedness and response/Préparation et réponse aux urgences
+509 3702-7862

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