EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World News

March 28, 2010

Shelter plan emerging ahead of Haiti donor meeting


Some 1.3 million people lost their homes in the Jan. 12 quake; hundreds of thousands are on the capital's streets, hillsides and dangerous riverbeds with at most a tarp or flimsy wood between them and the sky.

The new plan — now accepted by major international groups including U.N. agencies and the U.S. Agency for International Development — looks like this: Those who can will be encouraged to return to homes that engineers have deemed safe. Those who can't will be given help removing debris so they can return to their own neighborhoods.

Others will try to find host families for the time being. Aid groups will try to improve existing camps for those with no place else to go.

Only a small number, as a last resort, may be moved to relocation camps.

The International Organization of Migration estimates 245,000 individuals are at high risk of flooding or mudslides in the makeshift camps where they now live, though a just-completed U.S. military survey said fewer than 37,000 need to be moved urgently.

Haitian and foreign officials initially proposed huge relocation camps, but that idea has largely fizzled after weeks of fruitless wrangling with private landowners and due to fears they could become new, permanent slums.

Only in the last few days — more than two months after the government proposed the camps — have the first 200 families to move to the first transitional site, an area called Santo 17 on the northeastern outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

Nobody is pushing the new model harder than the U.S. government, whose efforts so far are focused on the neighborhood of Turgeau, a hilly, tree-lined zone of mansions — several home to U.S. Embassy employees — middle-class apartments and concrete slums.

Workers late this month began clearing rubble and cleaning drainage canals. Soon they will start demolishing damaged buildings to make room for new shelter.

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