Second, the president must help people move from tents to sturdier homes, and remove the mountains of rubble that still clog the city. While the International Organization for Migration has reported that the number of Haitians living in camps has dropped from 1.5 million last July to 680,000 today, this simply means people have moved out of the camps, not necessarily that they have found sustainable housing.
Many left the camps fleeing heavy rains, in fear of political electoral violence, or simply out of frustration. Some are now rooming in overcrowded extended family homes. Others simply moved their tents closer to their pre-earthquake homes, which could trigger further difficulties when the rainy season arrives again next month, and the hurricane season in June.
Martelly needs to suspend evictions, ask people in the camps what they want – something no one has done so far – and design a housing strategy that will not only reconstruct houses, but rebuild stronger and safer communities. The success of any housing and community building effort will depend on the participation and input of the beneficiaries. Martelly must also be prepared to take decisive action on land ownership and availability issues that have constrained the reconstruction of sturdier housing.