ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
In Haiti, a massive relocation has begun. Tens of thousands of victims of the January earthquake are being moved to a new planned housing site outside the capital. With the rainy season fast approaching, the rush is on to get the most vulnerable people out of flood-prone camps. But humanitarian groups say the Haitian government botched the planning of the new camp and gave them little time to prepare.
NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.
CARRIE KAHN: The new campsite sits on a dusty and desolate area known as Corail-Cesselesse. Hundreds of white dome-shaped tents are lined up in rows on a graded plateau. It's a nine-mile drive north of capital to get to here, but it feels like another world.
Danisse Sannon(ph) said she cried the whole long bus ride out to the new camp.
Ms. DANISSE SANNON: (Through Translator) I was crying because out here it is so far. It's so far from where my mother lives. Even if she tried to come see me, she would have to take four buses to get here and she doesn't have the money.
KAHN: Sannon is 20 years old. She sits at the opening of her new white two-room tent. Her 16-month-old son, Sammy, clings to her. He has no clothes and his bloated stomach is scarred. Sannon says he got burned in a fire that erupted when their house collapsed in the earthquake. Her husband and brother died under the rubble.
Ms. SANNON: (Through Translator) What I really want to do is earn enough money so I can leave here and take a bus to the countryside where my mother and family are.
KAHN: Sannon brought with her a small basket full of food to sell. She has tiny bags of salt, bouillon cubes, chilies and dried fish. But she said once she sells everything she doesn't know how she will restock. It's a long walk and several buses to get to the nearest market.
That's one of the biggest problems facing the residents of this new camp: It's very far from any economic activity. President Rene Preval recently toured the area and told its newest inhabitants that he hopes to bring factories out here and create 30,000 jobs. But such plans could take years.
For now, new resident Louis Sainte Claudelle says he's glad his wife and three kids are no longer living in the overcrowded camp perched on the Petionville Golf Course. At night that camp swelled to a population of 50,000 people.
Mr. LOUIS SAINTE CLAUDELLE: (Foreign language spoken)
KAHN: Claudelle says there they lived in a tent made out of sticks and pieces of tarp. Whenever it rained, the whole thing would fill with water. He can't imagine how it would hold up in a big storm.
Aid groups are scrambling to get residents off the golf course before the heavy rains begin in May. The soil there is soft and is prone to slides and flooding.
This new camp is slated to accommodate up to 7500 people. But Julie Schindall of Oxfam says there was not enough planning and coordination done before residents were moved there.
Ms. JULIE SCHINDALL (Spokesperson, Oxford Committee for Famine Relief): We don't like the way that the site was selected. It was done in a last-minute way. But the government had two months to select a site and we had one week to prepare the site.
KAHN: Oxfam set up water stations, latrines and showers in the camp. Other groups provide food.
Ms. SCHINDALL: We know that this is also only the first movement of people. There will be more. This cannot be the model for future resettlements.
KAHN: The relocation isn't moving as fast as the government hoped. Only those who volunteer for the move will be bused out here. And so far, about 150 families have taken them up on the offer.
(Soundbite of hammering)
KAHN: But stakes continue to be driven into the rocky soil and new tents go up in anticipation of more volunteers.
Reside Louis Sainte Claudelle says now that he's here, he is going to make the best of the situation.
Mr. CLAUDELLE: (Foreign language spoken)
KAHN: He says after the earthquake, he and his wife lost their jobs and their house. They really don't have any better options.
Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Corail-Cesselesse, Haiti.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.