Voluntary Relocation: the case of Corail Cesselesse and Tabarre Issa

Date Publish: 
07/07/10
Region-Country: 
Haiti / America

With row upon row of tents neatly pitched on a vast area of cleared
ground, the size of twenty football fields, its roads, health care
centre and check point manned by the Haitian police and UN blue
helmets, Corail Cesselesse looks like a recently built small town.

Located some 20 kilometres from the capital Port-au-Prince,
Corail is now home to more than 1,300 families who lost everything
in the 12 January earthquake.

Within days of the tragedy, large population displacements
occurred, with tens of thousands of homeless people converging on
free open spaces, in schools and other public and private
buildings.

Soon after, spontaneous settlements mushroomed in and outside of
the capital of Port-au-Prince and in many other parts of the
country.

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"My house was completely destroyed and my children were
terrified", says Guilaine Lapointe. We had no choice but to quickly
find a place to shelter".

Guilaine and her family eventually found refuge in the courtyard
of college Saint Louis de Gonzague, a private institution in the
capital's Delmas 33 neighbourhood.

Public parks close to the destroyed Presidential palace were
quickly taken over by the homeless and desperate crowds.

In the panic that followed the quake, survivors paid little
attention to the potential dangers that their place of refuge could
represent. Issues relating to site preparation were simply not
taken into account, nor were immediate measures to improve the
living conditions of the displaced.

"Days after the 12 January, our main goal was to avoid having
blocks of concrete fall on our heads and because it wasn't raining,
we were not concerned about flooding and landslide risks", says
Ronald Vital who settled in Tabarre Issa camp.

Up to 50,000 displaced persons found refuge on the grounds of
the Petion-ville golf club, which sprawls above Port-au-Prince. Of
these, some 5,000 settled in areas declared by the Government of
Haiti to be at high risk of flooding. 

With Haiti in the midst of  the rainy and season and with
every likelihood that hurricanes will strike the island, many camps
and settlements hosting tens of thousands of people are at grave
risk of flooding. Many sites are difficult to access or are
established on steep slopes or areas at risk of landslides, as is
the case for the Vallée de Bourdon site, which lies beneath
the main road to Petion-ville.

Coordinated efforts to encourage families to move away from high
risk zones towards safer neighbouring areas continue.

As part of the global strategy, five options were identified by
the Government of Haiti and the humanitarian community for people
living in unsafe areas.

 

Option 1: The first, and preferred option, is for people
to return to their homes, whenever deemed safe. This effort is led
by the Government of Haiti, working with UN partners, which are
carrying out structural assessments of houses and buildings and
communicating which houses are safe, as well as answering community
concerns and responding to their needs.

Option 2: People may also wish return to their home
area if their houses are destroyed. This might involve building a
temporary shelter on a plot of land, or moving to a "proximity
site". This option involves the removal of rubble from affected
areas by engineers from the Government of Haiti, the US army and a
number of international organizations.

Option 3: Where they cannot go home, people may find a
family to host them – perhaps relatives or friends. Numerous
humanitarian actors are involved in supporting host
communities.

Option 4: Where people cannot go home, or find a host
family, they might be able to remain in the temporary settlement
where they already are. IOM and its partners in the Camp
Management, Camp Coordination Cluster (CCCM) and other clusters
ensure that basic services are provided and that the settlements
are healthy and safe.

Option 5: It may be that none of these first four
options is available. In that case, IOM is part of a group of
organizations working with the Government of Haiti to establish a
series of new sites on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. The
responsibility for identifying new land and brokering agreements
with landowners lies with the Government of Haiti.

Two sites have been established in the periphery of the capital,
Corail Cesselesse and Tabarre Issa, which are managed by the
American Refugee Committee and the NGO Concern respectively.

During the first two weeks of April, more than 500 families had
been resettled in Corail and 1,300 in Corail Cesselesse with IOM's
assistance.

IOM also lent its expertise to government counterparts to
relocate displaced families living in the high risk areas from
Vallée de Bourdon to Tabarre Issa and from Petion-ville golf
club to Corail Cesselesse.

IOM's site planning teams also provide expertise in camp
planning and management and in Corail Cesselesse, the Organization
covered camp management needs during the second part of April.

"The relocation of families all took place on a voluntary basis.
As families had several options, we had to carry out an intensive
outreach effort to inform people," says IOM's Bertrand Martin.

This was particularly the case for the relocation of families to
the Corail Cesselesse camp. Working with community representatives
in the Petion-ville golf club camp, IOM presented all available
options to families living in high risks zones. ‘Go and see'
visits to Coral were also organized for community members, which
allowed them to provide feedback to IOM as to how best to set up
the facilities.

Information kiosks were also set up in Petion-ville with IOM and
community representatives always at hand to answer questions from
concerned families.

Maps and photos of the new site were also presented to affected
families as was a list of all services and facilities that would be
available.

"We also regularly provided flyers, posters and banners to keep
the population informed and explained to them how the relocation
would happen," says
Martin.         

The relocation from Vallée Bourdon to Tabarrese Issa
followed a similar approach after the US Army Corps of Engineers
identified some 500 families who were most at risk.

IOM's Community mobilizers quickly moved in to explain to the
families why they had to consider relocation to another safer site
and to explain how the process would unfold.

"Engaging the families paid off as a genuine and constructive
dialogue took place," says IOM's Martin. "As a result, we managed
to dispel some of the misunderstandings and rumours that were
abounding at the time of the relocation process."

The relocation to Corail Cesselesse took just over a fortnight
with IOM team members always on the ground to meet the families as
they arrived. After being registered, heads of families were
provided with a registration card and the family taken to the plot
of land where a family size tent had been erected by IOM shelter
teams.

As the hurricane season arrives, IOM is now setting up
transitional shelters. With a living space of up to 18 square
metres, these will give families more protection from the
elements.

"I feel much better here," says Rodrigue Paulinis, who has
settled with his wife and two children in Corail. "This place feels
more secure for me and my family. The only important missing thing
is work. Despite this, we will stay for the time being."

IOM, which leads the Camp Coordination, Camp Management cluster,
lends its support to the American Refugee Committee now in charge
of managing daily operations at Corail Cesselesse.  IOM backs
another 189 humanitarian partners involved in providing assistance
to displaced populations living in some 1,400 sites in and around
the capital Port-au-Prince.

© IOM 2010 - MHT0594 (Photo: Daniel Desmarais)