Considering many Haitians make barely $2 a day, this can represent close to five months salary for some, Desruisseaux said. We believe the rental subsidy is a much better situation than living in a camp and returning [homeless quake victims] to their pre-earthquake environment; in some cases in a better situation than they were prior to the earthquake.
After IOM paid the $437 to her new landlord for a years rent, Simin invested the rest. She bought $37.50 in candy to resell in hopes of having money come in. She also paid $50 toward her daughters, ages 5 and 8, school fees. But three months later, school administrators sent the girls home after she failed to come up with the remaining $275, Simin said. Days after Christmas, she hit rock bottom again: the friend and fellow quake victim whom she had temporarily moved in with was packing her things to move out on New Years Day after also being unable to renew her lease. If she leaves, I have no choice but to also leave, said Simin, who recently moved in with another friend, also living in Jalousie.
An ongoing IOM-led evaluation of returnees wont be finalized until the end of this month. But preliminary results involving 500 families show that all remain in some sort of accommodations. In many cases though, they have either doubled up, moved back in with families or found cheaper housing, those familiar with the survey said.
Those involved in the governments rebuilding efforts, particularly President Michel Martellys relocation and revitalization of six camps attached to 16 neighborhoods, say progress has been made.
In the last few months, the government has opened a state university and industrial park in the north, where it also unveiled a new asphalt runway to accommodate large carriers. The quake-damaged National Palace was finally demolished, and Haiti celebrated the opening of a new international airport arrival lounge and a privately-financed luxury hotel in the capital.
The number of homeless quake residents, which peaked at 1.5 million shortly after the disaster left more than 300,000 dead, has dropped to 347,284 as of December, IOM said.
Since the government launched its returnee program in 2011, some 635,322 people have been helped by the international community to move out of the camps through either rental subsides, transitional shelters or home repairs, IOM said.
We know there are still camps, but as you drive on a regular day you dont see much camps, said Clement Belizaire, director of the governments camp relocation and neighborhood rehabilitation program who puts the number of quake homeless at 290,000. The first priority of the government was public squares; the second was schools and then sports infrastructures. We cleared all the major public structures; we cleared all the major sports infrastructures; we cleared all of the major schools.
DISASTER TAKES US BACK TO ZERO
But with 450 camp sites still dotting Haitis hilly terrain, challenges remain. Tackling them, humanitarians say, requires Haiti to not only prioritize and put in strong, accountable government institutions, but to make the transition from short-term humanitarian aid to more sustainable development.
You cannot continue to implement stopgap measures to deal with specific short-term issues, said George Ngwa, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs here. Haiti goes from one emergency to another. Every time it appears, we are making progress. A disaster takes us back to zero or minus.
Before the quake, Jean Guerrier Sanon lived with two of his sisters in Port-au-Prince and got by with help from his parents, rural farmers who paid his school fees with the earnings from their beans, yam and banana plantations in the outskirts of Jeremie. After the quake, everyone went their separate ways including him. He took up residence inside a tent on the Champ de Mars, the public square of Haitian independence heroes in front of the now razed presidential palace.
With the lease on the bedroom he rented for $500-a-year inside a private home up next month, Sanon said hes running out of options. He has been unable to find a job, and any hope of having his parents help out, he said, was washed away in October when Hurricane Sandy left their crops in ruin.
Moving in with any of his eight brothers and sisters, isnt an option either, he said. Youre 27 years old, and not working. Even if they used to help you out, its not easy to be sitting up in their house doing nothing, he said.
Looking out at the now empty Champ de Mars from his doorway, Sanon said its clearing was a big victory but bittersweet. Once they uprooted us, he said, they should have turned and look back.