World Vision: one month on, homeless Haitians seek safety and security

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 12 /CNW/ - Haiti's homeless are in need of protection and shelter says humanitarian organization World Vision after a new survey finds that more than half of respondents, whose families include 632 children, said they are living in exposed shelter and reported security concerns, including fear of robbery and rape.

As part of an assessment of need across Port-au-Prince, World Vision asked families living in spontaneous settlements, expansive camps and in tents outside their homes about their protection, security and safety concerns. The relief, development and advocacy organization spoke to respondents from 154 households representing 1,331 people in 17 sites across the capital in February.

Seventy-five households out of 154 said children were the most vulnerable in their community. Reasons for their vulnerability included factors such as insecurity, fear of "evil forces", infection and sickness, rain, mist, sleeping outside in a damp environment, and children living alone or separated from parents. Other reasons mentioned were children being caught in the middle of fighting, sleeping on the streets or in bad conditions, living with injuries or disabilities and being vulnerable to abduction.

"Those we spoke to recognized children are in particular need of protection," said Patrick Sooma, World Vision's Humanitarian Protection Specialist. "We are deeply concerned for children separated from their parents. Especially as many temporary shelters are constructed on roundabouts, on busy roads or made of cotton sheets, without any kind of closed entrance."

"Shelter is the utmost priority for people now in Haiti, not just in advance of the coming rains, but to provide privacy and some additional security," he said.

Community representatives in just six camps said they knew of more than 900 children who are separated from both of their parents.

To help protect and care for children in camps, World Vision has established safe places for children to play and learn in six camps across the capital and will open 16 more in the coming weeks. The organization is also distributing shelter supplies to thousands of people in camps and has helped half a million people with food and other emergency relief supplies.

"World Vision calls on the UN to work with the Government of Haiti to draw up crime-prevention strategies that provide much-needed protection to vulnerable people living in very difficult conditions," said Sooma. "Any planning must also make sure camps are well-lit and that communities have warning tools such as whistles and mobile phones.

"One camp we spoke to has resorted to providing its own security," said Sooma. "Others said they feel incredibly unsafe as they effectively sleep on the street, exposed to theft, violence and attack. Some respondents asked for protective fencing around camps, even more asked for police protection."

A fifth of households surveyed said they are at risk of robbery, one in ten were afraid of "evil forces", while others said they were scared of rape or felt generally insecure. More than one in ten households said they lacked protection or security from authorities.

World Vision is calling for security information to be coordinated and shared between government authorities, US military and UN peacekeepers but most importantly with communities themselves. During this period of acute vulnerability, protection forces must maintain high visibility throughout the city to protect people against potential crime.

Those wishing to help with World Vision's Haiti relief efforts can visit WorldVision.ca or call 1-800-268-5528.

SOURCE World Vision Canada

For further information: For further information: on survey results or to interview World Vision experts, please contact: Yoko Kobayashi, (905) 565-6200 ext. 2151, (416) 671-0086 (cell), yoko_kobayashi@WorldVision.ca; Britt Hamilton, (905) 565-6200 ext. 3973, (416) 419-1321 (cell), britt_hamilton@WorldVision.ca; For Quebec media: Anne Cattaruzza, (514) 845-3737 ext. 5232, (514) 513-4601 (cell), anne_cattaruzza@visionmondiale.ca


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