Abandoned and betrayed – why Haiti’s displaced people feel neglected by the state

By Chiara Liguori, Caribbean researcher for Amnesty International (Originally posted on Livewire)

Where is the state in Haiti? In the week we have spent here so far, we have been hearing this question again and again. Displaced people living in makeshift camps haven’t seen any improvement in their living conditions in the six months since the earthquake, and in some cases their situation has been deteriorating. They wonder if they still have authorities to address and if they will ever get any help. They feel abandoned and betrayed.

Dozens of people living in makeshift camps erected on private land are facing the threat of forced expulsion. © Amnesty International.

In most cases, the presence of the state is visible only through unpopular decisions. Since early April, the government announced the end of food distribution because it found that aid was creating dependency and blocking the national economy. Since then, more and more people have reported difficulties in acquiring adequate food. Reports of malnutrition are increasing and more and more girls are being forced into sexual exploitation in order to eat. Many parents face a hard choice between feeding their children or sending them to school.

The governmental decision to interrupt distribution of food aid has been widely publicized on radio. However, little or no information seems to have been available concerning state plans for relocation and resettlement of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people. Probably because a plan still does not exist. The large majority of displaced people continue to occupy public squares, football pitches and school yards without knowing if something (and what) is being prepared for them by the authorities.

What is clear to them is that their life will become even more dire if nothing is done. Dozens of people living in makeshift camps erected on private land are facing the threat of forced expulsion by the land owners, who are claiming back their land, or at least some form of compensation for loss of profit. In some cases, people have already been evicted or have fled following intimidation. A displaced woman confirmed: “The state needs to prepare a plan for people on private lands. If the state has no plan, people will end up in the streets once again.”