Haiti's Homeless Wary Of Efforts To Relocate Them Officials estimate there are more than 650 makeshift camps of quake survivors scattered throughout Port-au-Prince. Authorities say the delivery of food and medical services would be eased if people were moved into new camps organized and run by relief agencies in outlying areas.
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Haiti's Homeless Wary Of Efforts To Relocate Them

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Haiti's Homeless Wary Of Efforts To Relocate Them

Haiti's Homeless Wary Of Efforts To Relocate Them

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Its going to take some time before the U.N. gets its coordination framework in place and working. Meanwhile, the Haitian government says it hopes to go ahead with plans to move hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors out of makeshift settlements. They would head to camps on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, where they can receive food, shelter and medical aid. Many people now living on the streets of the capital say theyre willing to go.

But as NPRs Corey Flintoff reports from Port-au-Prince with the move to camps comes some very real risks.

COREY FLINTOFF: Jacques Geson and 10 members of his family have been sleeping in the dust for two weeks. Theyre packed side by side with hundreds of other earthquake survivors in the park across from Haitis ruined National Palace. They say theyve heard of the Haitian governments plan to move them to camps outside the city, but Geson has some questions.

Mr. JACQUES GESON: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: I know we have huge needs here, he says, but if theyre going to take us somewhere else, theyll have to give us a roof, food and even money.

The 63-year-old is mistrustful of his government and the international aid mission. People in the camp say the only humanitarian aid theyve received so far is water.

The plight of people like Geson and his family is one of the things that makes the idea of moving survivors out of the capital seem appealing. Officials estimate that there are more than 650 makeshift settlements scattered throughout the city, and some say it would be far simpler to provide food, medical services and safety in formal camps.

Mr. RICK BAUER (Engineering Adviser, Oxfam): Its very easy to deliver aid to camps. Theyre all right there. We call it the truck and chuck syndrome. You just fill up your truck, and you chuck it out the other side to give it to people, and you say its a job done.

FLINTOFF: Thats Rick Bauer, an engineering adviser for the British-based charity Oxfam. He says one idea being discussed would put thousands of survivors in a two-phase camp. One part of the camp would be temporary, with families in tents. Residents would be hired to help build permanent housing in another part, providing a source of income for the survivors.

Mr. BAUER: Sounds good in principle, but in reality its a lot more difficult and complicated to put into practice.

FLINTOFF: Especially in Haiti, Bauer says, where peoples normal social organization in neighborhoods has been so severely disrupted. He says theres a risk that violent Haitian gangs could take control of the camps, as they did in the slums of Port-au-Prince just a few years ago.

Bauer says that in addition to planning for relocating people, the aid mission ought to be thinking about how it can work with survivors to keep them in their neighborhoods. He says one rough estimate is that 70 percent of people in some areas could, with some money and technical assistance, repair their houses well enough to make at least one or two rooms safe to live in for the next six months or so. That could buy time, he says, to help neighborhood groups restore the life of the city.

(Soundbite of crowd)

FLINTOFF: Returning to a damaged house doesnt sound appealing, especially when aftershocks rumble every day. But Augustin Ernst, living with his family of four in the camp by the National Palace, says moving away from the city would be hard, too.

Mr. AUGUSTIN ERNST: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: We dont want to stay here, he says, waving at the camp but we have no choice. I was born here, and this is what I know. I dont want to go anywhere else.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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