Engineers from the United Nations mission in Haiti have started preparing the ground for the establishment of new and better camps to house hundreds of thousands of people left homeless after January’s catastrophic earthquake, the head of UN peacekeeping operations said today.
The Haitian Government had on 19 March issued a decree identifying the sites where new camps expected to provide displaced people better shelter during the rainy season will be set up, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters in New York.
“Work has already started to prepare the ground for the relocation of the camps. Now that we have the sites, we will do the work as soon as possible,” said Mr. Le Roy. He said engineers from the UN mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, were working with those from the US military to prepare the ground for the camps.
Mr. Le Roy, however, acknowledged that it will not be possible to provide everyone in need with adequate shelter before the upcoming rainy season, given the large number of people who required it.
Speaking at the same briefing, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra, said that the crisis in Haiti had been complicated by the fact that the devastation happened in an urban setting with a complex land tenure and limited infrastructure. Thus there was a delay is identifying proper sites for the camps. “We need not underestimate the complexity of this huge humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.
Mr. Le Roy said UN police were now working with the Haitian national police to patrol most of the main spontaneous camps where those displaced had settled to prevent cases of sexual assault against women. Efforts had also been made to improve security at night by lighting up the camps with solar-powered lamps.
Responding to a question about sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers, he said the policy of zero-tolerance for such misconduct continues, but stressed that the vast majority of the 140,000 UN peacekeepers deployed in various mission around the world conducted themselves with integrity.
Asked about reported demands by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Chad for the UN to withdraw peacekeepers from both countries, Mr. Le Roy said consultations were ongoing. He said a Secretary-General’s report on the “options and scenario” for the UN mission in DRC, MONUC, will be ready at the beginning of April and would propose withdrawing troops from the more stable western regions of the DRC, but recommend that MONUC continues to play its role in the east, where conflict and insecurity remain widespread.