[News] Counting Deaths in Haiti’s Displacement Camps as “Progress”

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 22 12:08:20 EDT 2019


  Counting Deaths in Haiti’s Displacement Camps as “Progress”

Isabel Macdonald - October 22, 2019

S_ince Haiti was_ struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, an 
estimated 59,000 Haitians have been granted Temporary Protected Status, 
which allows the nationals of countries designated unsafe due to 
“extraordinary and temporary” conditions to live and work legally in the 
United States. But in November 2017, the Trump administration abruptly 
terminated TPS for Haitians, setting off multiple battles in court. If 
the government prevails, current Haitian TPS recipients — many of whom 
have children who are U.S. citizens — could be deported to a country 
that is now in the midst of an escalating crisis 

A federal judge, in temporarily blocking the policy in April, found 
evidence that the decision was made in “bad faith” by Trump’s Department 
of Homeland Security, which went “fishing for reasons” to end Haitians’ 
eligibility for TPS and ignored relevant facts about the persistence of 
hazardous conditions 
in the country. Haiti remains vulnerable to deadly diseases like 
cholera, Hurricane Matthew only exacerbated the post-earthquake housing 
crisis, and a political standoff <https://www.theguardian.com/world> has 
caused widespread food and fuel shortages, forcing hospitals to cut 
services or close entirely. In his ruling 
U.S. District Judge William Kuntz also said there was evidence to 
suggest that “a discriminatory purpose of removing non-white immigrants 
from the United States was a motivating factor behind the decision.” The 
Trump administration is now appealing 
Kuntz’s injunction and defending the termination of Haiti’s TPS 
designation in four separate lawsuits 

In justifying its move to strip Haitians of their protected status, the 
administration has seized on statistics produced by the International 
Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency that counted 96 
fewer people living in camps for internally displaced people in Haiti in 
2016 than in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

But according to a monthslong investigation by The Intercept and Type 
Investigations, those statistics profoundly distort the experiences of 
Haitians in the wake of the earthquake, erasing evidence of persistent 
suffering, dysfunction, and even death to present a narrative of 
“progress” that justifies the return of tens of thousands to dangerous 

“Ninety-six percent of people displaced by the earthquake … have left 
those camps,” James McCament, as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and 
Immigration Services, wrote in an April 2017 memo 
concluding, “Haiti has made significant progress in recovering from the 
2010 earthquake, and no longer continues to meet the conditions for 
designation.” While DHS had consistently extended Haiti’s TPS 
designation by the maximum 18 months each time it came up for renewal, 
McCament advised DHS to issue only a six-month extension. The 
department’s then-secretary, John Kelly, complied, also citing 
the 96 percent reduction in the population of IDP camps as evidence of 
“progress.” When Kelly’s successor, acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, 
terminated Haiti’s TPS designation altogether that November, she 
likewise cited 
this decrease to support her claim that the hazardous conditions that 
led to Haiti’s designation no longer existed.

When one of the lawsuits challenging this termination went to trial 
in January, IOM’s statistics were the first item of evidence that the 
lead attorney representing Trump, Duke, and the U.S. government 
presented to support his argument that the decision to terminate TPS for 
Haitians was lawful and justified. During the trial, another government 
attorney referred to the “decline of the numbers of people living in 
camps” as “a sign of progress.”

Interviews for this article with dozens of Haitians who lived in IDP 
camps after losing their homes in the 2010 earthquake call these claims 
into question. We found that the vast majority of these 
earthquake-displaced Haitians still do not have safe or adequate shelter 
and are now living in informal settlements where they lack access to 
basic services. Many of them, far from voluntarily leaving the camps, 
were violently evicted. After examining the conditions in just four of 
the 1,555 camps where displaced Haitians lived, we found evidence that 
at least 32 individuals had died in these camps. Yet IOM does not keep 
track of such deaths, the organization confirmed. The evicted, the 
dangerously housed, and many of the dead, we found, are counted in that 
96 percent decrease in camp population as evidence of “progress.”

IOM is now using the flawed system it developed in Haiti to track people 
displaced by conflict and disaster in a host of other countries 
<https://www.globaldtm.info/> around the world.

      Unrecorded Deaths

Adeline Geffrard, her 1-year-old son, her parents, her two sisters, and 
her brother were among the more than 1.5 million Haitians IOM initially 
counted in Haiti’s IDP camps. After the January 2010 earthquake 
destroyed the Geffrards’ home in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, 
the seven members of Adeline’s family took refuge in Parc Jean Marie 
Vincent, a sports park that transformed into Haiti’s largest 
displacement camp. The Geffrards fashioned a makeshift tent out of a 
tarp they were given by an aid group. Through constant exposure to the 
burning Caribbean sun, however, the plastic sheet soon began to wear 
through and rip, leaving the family with little protection from the 
downpours of Haiti’s rainy season that spring or the cyclones that hit 
the camp during hurricane season that fall.

The camp where Adeline’s family lived was one of many that formed in the 
immediate aftermath of the earthquake, as survivors fleeing the debris 
of their collapsing homes and neighborhoods took refuge on any available 
piece of land in Port-au-Prince. According to a 2010 study 
<https://sites.tufts.edu/jha/archives/869> of conditions in about 100 
IDP camps in Haiti by researchers from the City University of New York 
and the Université d’État d’Haïti, only 10 percent of families living in 
these camps had so much as a proper tent for shelter; 90 percent were 
sleeping under tarps or even bedsheets. Meanwhile, 40 percent of camps 
did not have access to water, while 30 percent did not have toilets of 
any kind. These conditions made camp residents particularly vulnerable 
when cholera broke out in Haiti in October 2010, after sewage from a 
base housing infected United Nations peacekeepers made its way into an 
important Haitian water source.

In the first few months after the earthquake, NGOs occasionally 
distributed food staples such as rice to residents of the camp in Parc 
Jean Marie Vincent. “They would pass by and give us a bit of food,” 
Adeline recalled. However, on more than one occasion, she returned to 
her family’s tent empty-handed after waiting in line because there 
wasn’t enough food to go around. “We stood under the sun but didn’t get 
anything,” she explained.

A 2010 study <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4048938/> by 
Partners in Health showed that prior to the cholera outbreak, medical 
services and water distribution in Parc Jean Marie Vincent met the 
minimum standards 
<https://handbook.spherestandards.org/en/sphere/#ch001> identified in 
the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, an 
influential set of guidelines developed by humanitarian NGOs. However, 
the study also showed that “food, shelter, sanitation, and security were 
below minimum accepted standard and of major concern.” While the 
guidelines specify that that there should be at least one toilet for 
every 50 people, there were only 115 latrines in the camp, whose 
population was estimated to be about 48,000 in the months after the 
earthquake. This amounted to about one latrine for every 400 residents — 
just one-eighth of the minimum needed to ensure basic sanitation. 
Adeline still has a clear memory of these latrines, which became so 
filthy that many residents considered them unsafe. “They were all 
clogged,” she recalled, scrunching up her nose in disgust. “[It was] 

    When Adeline finally left the camp, in early 2014, only five of the
    seven members of her family were still alive.

When Adeline finally left the camp, in early 2014, only five of the 
seven members of her family were still alive. “I lost my big sister,” 
she said softly, in Kreyòl, “and then I lost my father.” In December 
2013, Adeline’s sister Ninese suddenly developed terrible diarrhea and 
began vomiting. The family brought her to a hospital, where a doctor 
confirmed that she had cholera. After a week, Ninese appeared to have 
gotten better and was released. However, her symptoms returned. Ninese 
died in Parc Jean Marie Vincent just as her family was making 
arrangements for someone to drive her back to the hospital. She was 28.

A month later, Adeline’s father, Therus, went to the hospital after 
displaying symptoms of cholera and received treatment. “He was starting 
to feel a bit better,” Adeline recalled, so like her sister, he returned 
to the camp. A few days later, his symptoms, too, were back with a 
vengeance. According to Adeline, “He died right away.”

Dr. Louise Ivers, former senior health and policy adviser at Partners in 
Health, which ran a cholera treatment center in Parc Jean Marie Vincent, 
confirmed by email that “we did have deaths.” She declined to specify 
exactly how many cholera deaths occurred in the camp, which has since 
been closed through a formal relocation program administered by IOM. 
Ivers explained that this was “ministry of health data” and thus she 
would “not be able to share directly.”

Yet Dr. Patrick Dely, director of epidemiology at the Haitian Ministry 
of Public Health and Population, which tracks cholera deaths, said that 
his department does not actually know how many residents of camps like 
Parc Jean Marie Vincent died of cholera. The department records both 
cholera deaths that occur in institutional settings, such as hospitals 
and cholera treatment centers, and those that occur in community 
settings. But when asked about how many of those who died of cholera 
were IDP camp residents, Dely confirmed that his department “does not 
have the data.”

In Mega 4, another camp in Port-au-Prince that IOM has since closed 
through a relocation program, at least 12 people died of cholera, 
according to François Jesner, an elected member of the camp leadership 
committee who worked for five months in a cholera treatment center in 
the camp. As was the case in Parc Jean Marie Vincent, residents of Mega 
4 had access to water, which was initially distributed for free, and 
some health care facilities, including a maternity clinic. But 
distribution of food staples only lasted a few weeks, according to Fritz 
Belance, another Mega 4 resident and member of the camp leadership 
committee. “Then the Haitian government asked for that to stop,” he 
recalled. On some level, Fritz considered the decision reasonable; it 
seemed logical that people should work to provide for their families. 
However, “there was no work,” he said. “There were people who couldn’t 
eat.” And as was the case in IDP camps across Haiti, he explained, other 
services diminished after the first year.

Life in Mega 4 took a particular toll on Fritz’s mother, Gèze Belance. 
For nearly six years, Gèze lived under the same tarp as her son. During 
this period, Fritz recalled, his mother’s health declined significantly, 
before her eventual death from an apparent heart attack in September 2015.

Clémane Joseph, who took refuge in Mega 4 with his daughter Mickerlange 
Joseph and her son after their home in Port-au-Prince was destroyed, 
also died in the camp. Clémane had been injured during the earthquake, 
when a concrete block fell on his foot as he escaped from his home 
carrying his 1-year-old grandson in his arms. During his years in the 
camp, the wound on Clémane’s foot became increasingly infected. On 
several occasions, his son Mara-Donal Joseph, a motorcycle taxi driver, 
brought Clémane to a hospital in Port-au-Prince. However, the hospital 
always charged fees for these visits, and neither Mara-Donal nor 
Mickerlange, whose meager earnings came from selling used clothing and 
cigarettes, could afford to keep paying. Mara-Donal remembered that his 
father’s foot appeared very red and swollen. Then the wound opened, and 
he could see the bones. “There were worms inside,” Mara-Donal recalled. 
By late 2012, Clémane was no longer able to walk. He died in Mega 4 on 
December 28, 2014.

Twenty-nine-year-old Martineau Basil was also unable to access the 
medical care he needed in the camp where his family lived, according to 
his uncle Wilsson Basil. After the Basils’ home in Port-au-Prince was 
destroyed, the family took refuge in a camp in Champ de Mars, a public 
plaza at the heart of the Haitian capital. Martineau, who had suffered 
serious injuries when a concrete wall fell on him during the earthquake, 
died after less than a month in the camp, according to Wilsson.

In Tabarre Issa, one of Haiti’s remaining IDP camps, 15 camp residents 
have died since 2010, according to camp committee member Luxama 
Livenson. He cited poor living conditions as an important factor in 
these deaths in Tabarre Issa, where he says many residents lack access 
to food, clean drinking water, and medical care.

Given that conditions and services in other IDP camps in Haiti were 
generally no better than those in Tabarre Issa, Parc Jean Marie Vincent, 
or Mega 4, it seems likely that many others died in the more than 1,500 
camps that formed in the aftermath of the earthquake. Many such deaths, 
including those of Martineau Basil, Therus and Ninese Geffrard, Gèze 
Belance, Clémane Joseph, and the 12 people who reportedly died of 
cholera in Mega 4, are officially counted as “progress” — part of that 
much-cited reduction in camp population. Others, like those who died in 
Tabarre Issa, are still being counted by IOM as part of the population 
living in IDP camps.

      Displacement Tracking Matrix

Since the 2010 earthquake, IOM has collected data on Haiti’s displaced 
population through a system called the Displacement Tracking Matrix. 
According to Emmanuelle Deryce, an IOM operations officer, the first 
step the agency undertook in implementing this tracking system was to 
register the residents of every site IOM had identified as an IDP camp. 
The agency gathered information about each household in the camp, 
including the head of household, the total members, and their contact 
information, and issued each family an IDP registration card.

Whenever an IDP camp was closed through a relocation program, IOM or its 
partner agencies carried out an additional registration to determine who 
was still living in the camp and thus eligible for assistance. When IOM 
agents came to re-register the residents of Mega 4, Mickerlange informed 
them about the death of her father, who was identified on her family’s 
IDP registration card as the head of her three-person household. But 
that information might never have been recorded. Humanitarian 
organizations often keep track of deaths among the people they seek to 
assist, as mortality rates are a common assessment measure. However, 
Deryce confirmed that IOM has kept no records of deaths in Haitian IDP 
camps like Mega 4.

    “For us, the indicator is decrease of people in camps. Because we
    want to close camps.”

“Here, we don’t really measure how a program is working with the number 
of deaths,” a data analyst who worked in IOM’s Haiti Mission explained 
in a recorded interview cited in my Ph.D. thesis 
<https://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/983850/>. “For us, the indicator 
is decrease of people in camps. Because we want to close camps.”

This data analyst, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity for my 
doctoral research, did not respond to follow-up questions for this 
article. However, on a three-way Skype call, Deryce and Giuseppe 
Loprete, IOM’s chief of mission in Haiti, elaborated on the procedure 
IOM uses to count decreases in the number of Haitians living in camps. 
Deryce explained that IOM staff she referred to as “enumerators” 
regularly visit Haiti’s remaining camps and count the number of shelters 
in each site. “We continue visiting sites on a regular basis,” she said. 
“If people reduce, we make sure we’re able to track that.”

“We also have our drones,” Loprete added, explaining that unmanned 
aerial vehicles are “a very powerful tool” to help the agency find out 
if camps “for some reason expanded or reduced.”

In late 2010, when IOM published its first report based on the data it 
gathered through the Displacement Tracking Matrix, the agency estimated 
that 1.5 million people were living in 1,555 IDP camps throughout Haiti. 
As of this past January, when IOM published its most recent report on 
Haiti, just 23 camps remained open, housing fewer than 35,000 Haitians. 
The agency thus concluded 
that there had been a “reduction of 99 percent of sites and 98 percent 
of IDPs identified in 2010.”

      Forced Evictions

Most of the decrease IOM counted in camp residents occurred within the 
first few years after the earthquake. Yet these relocations hardly 
appear to be signs of progress. Household surveys 
have shown that most families who left Haiti’s IDP camps during this 
period either felt compelled to leave due to the appalling conditions or 
were forcibly evicted.

In February 2011, IOM carried out a survey 
of 1,033 households that had lived in camps that closed within a year of 
the disaster. Evictions were the most frequently cited reason that 
survey respondents gave for leaving the camps, followed by rain or 
hurricanes, poor conditions, and crime or insecurity. Of the former camp 
residents who responded to the survey, 25 percent reported that their 
households were still living in a tent or makeshift shelter, and another 
29 percent said they had moved into a house that was in need of repair. 
Only 42 percent of respondents reported that their families were living 
in an undamaged house.

Of the more than 1,500 camps that have closed since 2010, at least 177 — 
or about 12 percent — were closed through evictions, according to an 
April 2018 IOM report 
IOM estimated that such evictions — many of which were carried out 
violently at the behest of private landlords, often with the complicity 
or active involvement of local Haitian authorities — have driven 60,570 
Haitians out of IDP camps.

Among those who were violently evicted was 60-year-old Maude Maselus. 
After the earthquake destroyed the house she rented in Port-au-Prince, 
Maude took refuge in a camp not far from the rubble of her home in 
Delmas 17, a relatively central neighborhood in the Haitian capital. For 
more than a year and a half, she lived under a tarp in the camp, which 
was located on private land.

    The armed men ordered them to the ground. Then they began beating

However, one day in August 2011, a representative from the mayor’s 
office arrived in the camp. “He came with many leaders who were well 
armed, to crush our homes,” recalled Maude, who said she barely had time 
to salvage her meager belongings before the gun-toting men ordered her 
to dismantle her tent. Some camp residents panicked and began to run. 
The armed men ordered them to the ground. Then they began beating people.

Jean-Alex Jacques, who lived in the same camp in Delmas 17 with his 
girlfriend, referred to what happened that day as a /deplasman fosè/ — a 
forced displacement. A slight man who is now 32, Jean-Alex said he was 
badly beaten by the gunmen, who forced him and his girlfriend, along 
with hundreds of others <https://youtu.be/c4i3yXR5tDQ>, to leave the camp.

Like many others who were evicted that day, Maude, Jean-Alex, and his 
girlfriend have since moved to Corail, an informal settlement north of 
the Haitian capital. Maude erected a makeshift tent there with the same 
tarp she’d used in the camp, on a dusty patch of land just a few meters 
from a similar shelter where Jean-Alex and his girlfriend now live with 
their 4-year-old daughter.

Corail is located on a wind-swept plain 
<http://haitigrassrootswatch.squarespace.com/31controverseEng> that is 
prone to flooding during the rainy season. The area was sparsely 
populated before 2010, when the Haitian government declared it public 
domain. Individuals who claim to be the land’s prior owners maintain 
that the government never compensated them, leaving unresolved questions 
about tenants’ tenure. Yet despite this uncertainty, and the lack of 
basic services like running water and electricity, hundreds of thousands 
of Haitians have migrated to informal settlements here over the past 
nine years, to stake claim to a piece of land or purchase a plot from 
someone who claimed it first. Canaan, the largest of these settlements, 
is now estimated to have a population 
of more than 200,000.

IOM initially identified Canaan and two other informal settlements in 
the area as IDP camps and counted their residents as part of the 
country’s displaced population. However, at the request of the Haitian 
government in 2013, when IOM estimated that there were more than 64,000 
people living in these settlements, the agency stopped counting 
their residents as IDPs. While the rationale 
for this request was that the settlements had the characteristics of 
“new neighborhoods needing urban planning with a long term view,” the 
reclassification made residents even more vulnerable to eviction.

We also found indications that IOM’s tally of Haitians evicted from IDP 
camps may be incomplete. Although Mega 4, for example, was formally 
closed through a relocation program, camp leaders and former residents 
say they were nonetheless forced out at gunpoint.

Officially, many of the larger camps were closed through cash grant 
programs, which offered residents a one-year rental subsidy, paid by 
organizations like IOM. As these agencies feared that individuals who 
were not camp residents might try to seek payment, the final 
registration was often 
carried out at night, with the assistance of police or U.N. soldiers who 
typically cordoned off camp perimeters so nobody who wasn’t already 
inside could enter. During this final registration, residents were often 
ordered to take down their tarp shelters before tractors leveled all the 

During the closure of Mega 4, Fritz said, some camp residents were also 
beaten by the police. He explained that a number of residents were 
calling for a more durable solution than a one-year subsidy. When IOM 
announced its plans to close Mega 4 through cash grants they saw as 
insufficient, residents protested, and some refused to leave. IOM 
returned several times to Mega 4 in the lead-up to the camp’s closure. 
“The last journey they made, the National Police came,” Fritz recalled. 
“They came around midnight, 1 in the morning, while people were asleep.” 
Fritz said camp residents who resisted removal that night were beaten.

Mara-Donal’s mother-in-law, Trinidad Paul, was among the Mega 4 
residents reluctant to leave the camp. “It was the police who came and 
forced us out,” she said. “They came and beat people. That’s what made 
us leave.” Trinidad remembers hearing a particularly loud burst of 
gunfire that night, which she later learned was the cops firing warning 
shots in the air. “The noise frightened me,” she recalled. She said she 
hid in her tent, lying flat on her stomach, her heart racing.

It was in the midst of this police operation that Fritz’s mother, Gèze, 
died of an apparent heart attack. Fritz said her sudden death occurred 
after she was woken up by the loud blast of gunfire. “This huge noise 
shocked us all,” added the soft-spoken camp leader. He was at Gèze’s 
side when she died.

Asked about the closure of Mega 4, an IOM spokesperson confirmed that 
the final registration of camp residents took place around 2 a.m. with 
the assistance of Haitian and U.N. police officers. The organization 
disputed allegations of violence against camp residents and said that no 
loss of life occurred that night.

      Backward, Not Forward

Relocation programs like the one IOM used to close Mega 4 offered 
families a means of securing safe rental accommodation — if only 
temporarily. While these programs — which were also administered by 
various international charity groups, including the Red Cross and World 
Vision — varied slightly depending on which agency ran them, they all 
followed the same basic model. To access the one-year rent subsidy, each 
eligible family was responsible for identifying an available property on 
the private market that met basic safety standards and negotiating the 
rent with the landlord. Once the property was approved by the 
administering agency, the family signed a one-year lease with the 
landlord, who received the subsidy upfront. The amount allocated for 
this payment was generally $500 for the full year; only if the rent cost 
less did the family get to keep any of the subsidy for themselves.

When IOM closed Mega 4, Mickerlange and her child were still living in 
the makeshift tent they had shared with Clémane before he died. The 
young mother, now 31, expected to receive a subsidy. However, she said, 
once she informed an IOM agent about her father’s death, “the agent took 
the card and said the card wasn’t valid anymore.” Without an IDP card, 
Mickerlange recalled an IOM representative telling her, they “couldn’t 
do anything for me.” She said the IOM agent promised to follow up with 
her but never returned. “The tractors came, [but] we never got the 
money,” she said.

Asked about the scenario Mickerlange described, the IOM spokesperson 
said that “for any individual who may have felt left out or neglected,” 
there was a grievance process led by the Tabarre mayor’s office that 
“Mrs. Joseph could have undergone to address any wrongdoing.”

According to Mickerlange, however, she did go through the grievance 
process and was nevertheless denied benefits.

Her brother Mara-Donal, who lived in a separate tarp shelter in Mega 4 
with his wife and kids, did receive a rental subsidy. With that 
assistance, Mara-Donal, his wife, Phara, and their three children moved 
back to Petite Place Cazeau, the middle-class neighborhood of 
Port-au-Prince where they lived before the earthquake. It was a success 
— for a time. After the one-year subsidy ended, they were unable to 
afford their rent and had to move out.

    “The state is not present, international organizations aren’t
    present. … It’s as if we’re a pack of animals.”

In 2012, a consultancy firm called the WolfGroup carried out a phone 
survey of households that received subsidies for an evaluation 
commissioned by the Haitian government and organizations involved in 
administering the grant programs. Based on information collected about 
each household’s income, savings, and debt loads, the evaluators 
that 60 percent of surveyed families would not be able to afford their 
rent after the end of the subsidy.

As the evaluation emphasized, these programs were “not intended as a 
long-term solution.” Rather, they were supposed to provide “a short-term 
‘boost’ to get grantees into a safe rental solution and develop their 
own solution for the mid-term.” Yet the evaluators also pointed out that 
Haitians still living in camps at the advent of these programs were 
members of “the poorest urban class in Haiti with the least options.” 
They noted that the circumstances of these households, most of which 
live on less than $2 a day, was “a reflection of the broader economic 
problems in Haiti,” including high rates of unemployment and 
underemployment. Since this evaluation, Haiti’s economy has further 
as a significant depreciation of the country’s currency and soaring 
inflation has hit Haitian families with a dramatic spike in prices of 
even such basic staples as rice.

Now, amid a political standoff 
between the U.S.-backed government of Jovenel Moïse and various groups 
calling for his resignation over charges of corruption, many Haitian 
communities are also experiencing food insecurity, fuel shortages 
and power outages 
Schools and businesses have closed, aid deliveries have been suspended, 
and hospitals have been forced to cut services. Over the past few weeks, 
as thousands of Haitians have taken to the streets to protest, at least 
30 people have been killed 
including 15 who were killed by the police. Some Haitians say 
conditions in their country are worse than anything they’ve previously 

Since 2010, the cost of rent in Port-au-Prince, already high relative to 
the meager incomes of many Haitian families, has skyrocketed. The 
Haitian government has estimated 
that 250,000 homes collapsed in the earthquake or were destroyed beyond 
repair, exacerbating a housing shortage that existed even before the 

Many subsidy recipients suggested that the grants themselves contributed 
to the spike in housing prices. The majority of participants in the 
WolfGroup’s survey 
believed that landlords raised rental prices because they were aware 
that an international organization would be paying the rent. A 
subsequent external evaluation 
identified “inflation of the price of rental housing” as a potential 
negative consequence of these programs. The consultants hired to carry 
out this 2014 evaluation also raised concerns that families who left IDP 
camps with the assistance of grants might have since moved into the new 
informal settlements north of Port-au-Prince.

Mara-Donal and Phara moved to one of the most remote of these 
settlements in 2016. Unable to afford the rising cost of rent in 
Port-au-Prince, they decided to buy a small plot of land in the 
settlement, which is called Village Philadelphie. Originally, they’d 
planned to build themselves a proper home, but more than two years 
later, they’re still living under the same tarps, wood, and tin sheets 
that formed their tent in Mega 4. Mara-Donal said that the same 
difficulties they confronted in the camp have continued to plague them 
in Village Philadelphie. There’s no potable water station in the area, 
so the family has to buy water by the bucket from a truck and treat it 
themselves to ensure that it is safe to drink. Nor is there electricity, 
or streetlights, or a medical clinic. “The state is not present, 
international organizations aren’t present,” Mara-Donal observed. 
“There’s nothing. There’s no infrastructure there for us.”

“It’s as if we’re a pack of animals,” he added.

According to Phara, life in Village Philadelphie is in some ways more 
difficult than it was in the camp. She reports that it was easier to 
access potable water in Mega 4, where aid organizations often 
distributed chlorination tablets. There was a free maternity clinic in 
the camp, where her youngest child, Clara, was born, but Village 
Philadelphie is so far from any public hospital or clinic that Phara has 
found it difficult to access health care at all. This has been an acute 
concern, since Clara has repeatedly been sick with pneumonia since they 
arrived in the settlement.

In Mega 4, Phara ran a small business, making and selling pastries. She 
continued this business in front of the house her family rented through 
IOM’s grant program. However, since their move to Village Philadelphie, 
Phara’s business has gone bust. There were simply too few capable of 
buying her pastries in the remote, impoverished settlement. Phara soon 
realized that she was spending more on ingredients than she was bringing in.

As the family’s financial situation has worsened, they have had to cut 
back on basic necessities. Before the earthquake, they ate three meals a 
day, according to Phara, who says they typically managed this even in 
the camp. However, since their arrival in Village Philadelphie, they 
have only been able to afford one meal a day.

Her mother, Trinidad, who also received a grant from IOM, lives next 
door to Phara and Mara-Donal’s family. Like her daughter, Trinidad has 
found it much harder to make a living in the settlement than in the 
camp, where she also ran a small business, reselling items such as 
candles and cooking gas. Procuring the types of goods she sold in Mega 4 
would be much more expensive in Village Philadelphie due to the 
additional travel costs required to get to the nearest market, so 
Trinidad hasn’t been able to restart her business.

The frame of the tiny shelter where Trinidad lives with her youngest 
son, Fritz, and her 1-year-old granddaughter, Carlene, is made out of 
the same wood beams as the tarp shelter where they lived in the camp. 
However, as Village Philadelphie is often hit by strong winds, Trinidad 
had to fortify her shelter with something sturdier. So she sold her IOM 
tarp to raise money to buy some tin sheets. Yet these flimsy tin walls 
are already badly rusted and don’t keep out the rain. And she doesn’t 
have money to buy any new materials. “The water comes in there,” she 
said, pointing to a hole in the wall above a thin single mattress where 
she sleeps at night with Carlene, who she said had been sick with 
diarrhea for three months. “When the rain falls, the entire bed is 
soaked.” Village Philadelphie is also farther than Mega 4 from Fritz’s 
school, making it much more expensive to get there by public transit. 
“Mega 4 was better than here!” she exclaimed, gazing at the hole in the 
wall, which she had tried to cover with a pair of laminated food guide 
posters. “We’ve gone backward, not forward! This place is not good for 
us at all, at all, at all.”

A study 
carried out by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti found 
that many other families who left the camps through rental subsidies had 
also ended up in worse conditions. Forty-four families who moved out of 
six IDP camps in Port-au-Prince through a cash grant program run by the 
Haitian government were surveyed at three different stages of the 
program. The last of these surveys was administered in 2013, when 92 
percent of these families’ rental subsidies had ended. A substantial 
majority reported that their living situation and food security were 
worse than before the earthquake. Thirty-seven percent reported that 
their access to clean water was worse than it was in the camps, 29 
percent said their access to medical care was worse, and 37 percent 
reported that they ate less well than in the camps.

Even as a temporary fix, the rental subsidies were only offered to a 
minority of the families consigned to IDP camps. Of the more than 1.5 
million Haitians IOM originally counted in these camps, only 302,116 — 
less than 20 percent — left through a subsidy program, according to 

The vast majority of Haiti’s former IDP camp residents — like Adeline’s 
family, whose surviving members fled Parc Jean Marie Vincent after her 
sister and father died — were simply no longer living in an IDP camp 
when IOM and its drones returned to recount Haiti’s displaced 
population. By April 2018, IOM reported 
that there had been 1,143,108 such disappearances, which the agency 
refers to as “spontaneous returns” — accounting for three-quarters of 
the decrease the agency has counted.

    The agency does not know how many individuals it tallies as
    “spontaneous returns” actually died in the camps.

Deryce, the IOM operations officer, confirmed that the agency does not 
know how many individuals it tallies as “spontaneous returns” actually 
died in the camps. Nor does IOM know how many members of households that 
left through evictions or rental subsidies died in the camps. As part of 
the final registration IOM carries out in camps it closes through rental 
subsidy programs, the agency has a questionnaire it uses to gather 
information about each family who leaves. The questionnaire does not ask 
a basic question: whether any members of the family died in the camp. As 
Loprete, IOM’s chief of mission in Haiti, explained, “We did not know of 
instances of deaths. We never received any notifications of deaths. … We 
did not really track deaths.”

Asked whether IOM nevertheless considers the decrease in IDP camp 
population to be a sign of progress, IOM’s spokesperson insisted that it 
did: “Progress towards finding durable solutions for all earthquake 
victims continues. It progressed from 96 percent in 2017 to 98 percent 
in mid-2019. Out of the original 1,555 IDP sites, only 22 will remain 
open at the end of 2019. This translates into solutions for 98 percent 
of initial caseload of persons displaced by the 2010 earthquake.”

IOM eventually closed Parc Jean Marie Vincent through a rent subsidy 
program. However, because none of the Geffrards were still living in the 
camp when IOM launched the program, neither Adeline nor any of her 
surviving family members were able to access assistance. Adeline, now 
28, currently lives with her spouse and three kids in Pernier 47, a 
suburb of Port-au-Prince, in the house of acquaintances who are 
temporarily living elsewhere and saw “we were in a very difficult 
situation,” she explained. She has no idea where her family will go when 
the owners of the home return.

      The Scale of the Crisis

To this day, very little of the housing that was destroyed in the 2010 
earthquake has been rebuilt. And the housing crisis was exacerbated by 
Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which displaced 
<https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2017/4/6/haiti> an 
estimated 175,000. Many Haitian families continue to lack access to 
adequate shelter, which places them at risk in the event of yet another 
disaster. This is a particular concern because Haiti is in the midst of 
its annual hurricane season, and experts have predicted 
more storms than usual before the season ends in late November.

Conditions remain particularly unsafe for Haitians who remain in IDP 
camps, where many women and girls have been raped or sexually assaulted 
As of April 2018, when IOM published 
its latest report on conditions in Haiti’s remaining camps, the vast 
majority of these camps did not have access to water, and three did not 
have so much as a single latrine. In many others, IOM reported that the 
latrines were so full that they constituted a health risk.

Electricity is available to those who can afford it in parts of Canaan, 
the former IDP camp, where the Haitian government and various 
international organizations have invested in building some basic 
infrastructure, including a paved road 
and a private hospital has also opened. However, access to such services 
remains a major problem for residents of other informal settlements 
north of Port-au-Prince. Given the uncertainty of land tenure, residents 
are at risk of being evicted from whatever makeshift homes they have 
been able to build for themselves. Many former camp residents have 
already been violently evicted from their new homes in Canaan, according 
to <https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/amr360012015en.pdf> Amnesty 

Given that many Haitians continue to lack access to clean drinking 
water, quality medical care, and proper waste disposal services, deadly 
water-borne diseases like cholera remain a major risk. Since 2010, more 
than 9,700 Haitians have died from cholera 
and 819,000 have contracted the disease. Moreover, cholera has become 
endemic in Haiti, according to 
Doctors Without Borders. While suspected new cholera cases have declined 
significantly since the height of the epidemic in 2011, the U.N. has 
that Haiti remains “extremely vulnerable” to the disease. The U.S. 
Agency for International Development has also documented 
<https://www.usaid.gov/haiti/food-assistance> growing food insecurity in 
the country.

For these reasons, USCIS researchers determined that Haiti continued to 
meet the conditions for TPS when the country’s designation came up for 
renewal in 2017. As the authors of an internal USCIS report 
emphasized that October, “Many of the conditions prompting the original 
January 2010 TPS designation persist, and the country remains vulnerable 
to external shocks and internal fragility.”

However, the following month, DHS terminated Haiti’s TPS designation. In 
a press release announcing the decision, Duke, then-acting DHS 
secretary, claimed 
“The extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 
earthquake no longer exist.” The very first data point Duke cited to 
support this claim was the decrease IOM counted in the number of 
Haitians living in IDP camps — from which at least 60,500 were evicted, 
and where an untold number died.

While IOM began developing its data collection system in Iraq, Loprete 
explained that “Haiti was always sort of a pilot or pioneer for this 
tool,” noting, “We can use it of course for other disasters.”

Already, IOM is using the Displacement Tracking Matrix to monitor people 
displaced by disasters in Yemen <https://www.globaldtm.info/yemen/>, El 
Salvador <https://www.globaldtm.info/el-salvador/>, Honduras 
<https://www.globaldtm.info/honduras/>, the Democratic Republic of Congo 
<http://www.globaldtm.info/democratic-republic-of-congo/>, Sudan 
<https://www.globaldtm.info/sudan/>, and Somalia 
<https://www.globaldtm.info/somalia/>. The agency has also promoted 
the system as an important tool for tracking populations displaced by 
the climate crisis. IOM describes 
<https://emergencymanual.iom.int/entry/19108> it as a service that 
“plays an essential role in providing primary data and information on 
displacement” to humanitarian agencies and governments and thus helps 
them to “deliver services and respond to needs in a timely manner.”

Yet the central role that the Displacement Tracking Matrix has played in 
the Trump administration’s official rationale for terminating Haitians’ 
eligibility for TPS also suggests that the tool may contribute to 
underestimating the impact of disasters, whether earthquakes, wars, or 
climate change. By failing to track deaths, while ignoring the fate of 
displaced people who end up in informal settlements with higher risks 
and fewer services than IDP camps themselves, this tool risks producing 
highly distorted data that downplays the scale and severity of 
contemporary crises of displacement. Such a flawed system of data 
collection may be convenient for governments “fishing for reasons,” in 
Judge Kuntz’s words, to close their borders to asylum-seekers. But it 
also has the potential to undermine humanitarian responses that are 
urgently needed at a time when more than 70 million people are forcibly 
displaced around the world, more than at any time in recorded history.

/With reporting assistance from Jeremy Dupin and Yvon Vilius./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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