Haiti's Government To Relocate Homeless To Camps
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand.
Food and shelter are critical needs in Haiti right now. In a moment, the challenges of delivering millions of meals. We'll talk with the woman in charge of the U.N. World Food Program. First, the problem of shelter. An estimated 1.5 million people are homeless after last week's earthquake. Some of them have left the capital on their own. Now the Haitian government plans to move hundreds of thousands more out of Port-au-Prince.
As NPR's Jason Beaubien reports, areas are being prepped to become huge homeless camps.
JASON BEAUBIEN: Brazilian soldiers today were leveling an area northeast of Port-au-Prince that they hope will hold 30,000 people by this weekend. But with only two bulldozers the task appears daunting, if not overly optimistic. Haitian officials say they're moving forward on a plan to erect tent cities on the periphery of the capital that could hold almost a half a million people.
Ms. MARIE LAURENCE JOCELYN-LASSEGUE (Minister of Communication, Haiti): (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Marie Laurence Jocelyn-Lassegue is the Haitian minister of communication. She says Haiti doesn't have enough tents right now and they're waiting for international donors to send more. The press conference was held under a mango tree in a police station by the airport. Haitian President Rene Preval's government has temporarily set up shop here after most government buildings were destroyed.
Ms. JOCELYN-LASSEGUE: (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: We don't really know how many people we can accommodate, Jocelyn-Lassegue says. But we're going to try to have tents that can sleep 5 to 10 people so families can stay together.
Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Before dawn, U.N. troops from Brazil started handing out water and food in front of the collapsed national palace. By 8:30 this morning, some 4,000 people were standing in a line that stretched for blocks. At first the Brazilians were giving each person a bottle of water and a small grocery bag of food including tuna fish or canned meat. As their stocks dwindled, Linx Rafael(ph) only got a bottle of water and a small packet of World Food Program biscuits.
Mr. LINX RAFAEL: (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: They make us think they're going to give us milk, Rafael says. We are hungry. There's a lot of our family dead. But we are not going to give up because we are Haitians. Rafael says he'd jump at the chance to move out of the park where he's been sleeping with hundreds of other people since the quake.
Mr. RAFAEL: (Foreign language spoken)
BEAUBIEN: Going to a camp is not a problem for me, Rafael says. The night is cold here. I'm sick. Sleeping out here is not good for my health. But some of the other young men around him grow suspicious when I say that this is a plan by the Haitian government. If the Haitian government is running the camps, they say, they'll leave us out there to die.
Even government officials acknowledge that the camps will be run by some international organization, although it's still unclear who that will be. Matt Marek, the country representative for the American Red Cross in Haiti says people are going to be displaced for years.
Mr. MATT MAREK (Representative, American Red Cross): There's just no way around it. People are going to have to live in camps.
BEAUBIEN: Marek says the camps will not be ideal for many people, but they will be better than having hundreds of thousands of people living amid the wreckage without access to food, water, toilets or shelter. He says the international community needs to come up quickly with a plan for well-managed camps until...
Mr. MAREK: The town can be rebuilt, until the city can be rebuilt, until, you know, we can take a serious look at how individuals are going to, you know, be able to build back better their homes.
BEAUBIEN: Even as construction crews start clearing space for tent cities, details of the camp plan are sketchy. Officials say what's eminently clear is that the hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims currently sleeping outside here cannot stay on the streets.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.
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