On 12 January it will be two years exactly since an earthquake devastated Haiti. It is estimated 220,000 people died and 1.5 million people were made homeless. According to the International Organization for Migration, 600,000 Haitians still remain in inhuman conditions, most living in camps for transitional shelters with little prospect for a positive change in their situation.
To mark the date and advance the process of reconstruction, 7,500 Haitians are marching on Parliament to deliver a letter of demands to the authorities. Two of the main demands are the distribution of land through a national housing strategy by 2013 and the delivery of decent, safe and low-cost housing. The document also asks for more transparency regarding the use of funds donated to the country and suggests that an annual report with the gifts and achievements is produced and is accessible to the international community. It also calls for the implementation of an agricultural development policy to ensure farmers' access to local markets and inputs.
The march, which will cover about 10 km in the capital Port au Prince, is an initiative of the Je nan Je campaign (Eye to Eye, in English), supported by ActionAid, which mobilizes 800,000 Haitians and local movements representing vulnerable groups such as women and smallholder farmers.
Although the current scenario does not show great progress, the electoral process, held in May last year, allowed the search for a closer dialogue between the government and civil society.
It is essential that the prime minister acknowledges that the traditional models proposed by experts so far have failed. The solution should be found in partnership with the Haitian people
says the executive coordinator of ActionAid Haiti, Jean-Claude Fignolé, arguing that the process of rebuilding the country must involve Haitians in the planning and implementation of activities.
Without land and labour, Haitians begin the migration to Brazil
The power of the devastating earthquake that destroyed lives, homes, institutions, documents; a tumultuous electoral transition process; and the absence of a clear land policy, despite land rights being guaranteed in the Constitution, are some of the reasons for the delay in Haiti´s reconstruction process.
The consequences are clear to anyone who walks through the capital Port-au-Prince, thousands of people live in precarious tents surrounded by piles of garbage, unemployed adults and unattended children. The scene contrasts with the volume of aid received to rebuild the country.
The lack of prospects has led to a significant wave of people seeking to rebuild their lives elsewhere. Four thousand Haitians have entered Brazil since the earthquake in 2010. However, in the last weeks of 2011 the flow of migration increased, driven by networks of people trafficking.
The government of the Northern state of Acre, which has received an influx of Haitians in recent days, initiated a plan to transfer the immigrants to other major cities of the country. Among the new destinations of Haitians are cities such as Northern Porto Velho, Southeastern São Paulo, and Southern Florianópolis and Porto Alegre.
"Brazil has a tradition of solidarity and welcome. Our country was built by different peoples and cultures and that's one of the good things about it. But the federal government must work on a clearer plan on how to absorb this population that arrives. It is not enough to give them humanitarian visa and ID numbers. Haitians are escaping a precarious situation and should not be faced with another such as unclear labor conditions, poor health assistance and housing," says Elisa Hugueney, policy adviser for ActionAid Brazil.
"In addition to having a plan, which should provide proper shelter, work, health and Portuguese basic domain, the government must also enhance international cooperation to crack down on human trafficking networks taking advantage of people´s despair. And, crucially, to seek dialogue with the Haitian government to move forward in rebuilding their own country in terms that respond to Haitians needs", she adds.
This article originally appeared in Portuguese on the ActionAid Brazil website.