Lessons from the earthquake in Haiti: A survey on the IDPs and on the resettled households (April 2012)

The following is a summary of the research report n°3 of the ACP Observatory on Migration “Quelles Solutions Après le Séisme en Haïti: Une Enquête Auprès des Déplacés Internes” prepared by Youssef Courbage (BRIDES), Frantz Fortunat (BRIDES), Pierre Guedj (BRIDES) and Thibaut Jaulin (MPC-EUI) (ACPOBS/2013/PUB03).

The earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 resulted in a great number of casualties and massive destruction, in particular in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, with an estimated 220 000 deaths, 300 000 injured and 1,5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). More than three years after the earthquake, in April 2013, the number of IDPs is estimated to be 320 000, scattered across 385 camps, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The living conditions in the camps are extremely difficult due to lack of hygiene and security, threat of expulsion, lack of resources, etc. The implementation of resettlement programs (T-shelter, reconstruction of houses, rental assistance) is complex, and such programs do not always meet the IDPs’ needs.

Following the recommendations of the National Consultative Council (NCC) in Haiti, the ACP Observatory on Migration commissioned a study on the IDPs’ human development and rights. The Migration Policy Centre (MPC) at the European University Institute (EUI), a member of the consortium of the ACP Observatory, coordinated the research project, and the Bureau de Recherche en Informatique et Développement Economique et Social (BRIDES), based in Port au Prince, conducted a survey among the IDPs.

The survey was carried out in March/April 2012. It compares the living conditions of three different groups: households in the camps, resettled households, and a control group. The survey focused on the camp of Sainte-Thérèse (Pétion-Ville), on a sample of resettled households (formally living in the camps of Place Boyer and Place Saint Pierre – Pétion-Ville); and on a sample of households living in the immediate neighbourhood of camp Saint-Thérèse (control group).

The study first focuses on demographic and socio-economic characteristics. Most indicators (with the exception of the education background) demonstrate that the IDPs in the camps are poorer than the other two groups. For example, IDPs in the camps have a higher percentage of women as the head of a household; the average size of the household is smaller due to the lack of space; fertility and mortality rates are higher; unemployment rate and proportion of informal employment are higher; emigration rate (internal and external) is higher; school attendance is lower; etc. Such results are due the impoverishment of the households in the camps and the over-representation of low-income households in the camps.

Moreover, the above-mentioned indicators improve among the resettled households, whose results are closer to that of the control group. It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who are the head of a household decreases among the resettled group, which indicates that men tend to return to their household after resettlement. Furthermore, the unemployment rate is lower among the resettled group, which indicate that resettlement is positively correlated with employment. However, it is noteworthy that the percentage of informal employment remains high among the resettled group, and that employment might actually pave the way to resettlement, rather than the contrary.

Furthermore, the study deals with sources of income and expenses. It confirms that few households can rely on a regular source of income, in particular in the camp, and that financial assistance from relatives in Haiti and abroad is a major source of income (and the first one for a significant proportion of households in all three groups). The survey also shows that resettled households face greater expenses than the control groups, in particular because most do not own their accommodation and pay a rent. Such result highlights a risk of impoverishment among the resettled group once exhausted the rental assistance provided for one year in the framework of resettlement programs.

In addition to the very difficult living condition in the camps, the study also sheds light on problems faced by the other groups, such as overcrowded accommodations, lack of running water and waste disposal, etc. Regarding health care, the survey shows that households in the camps usually choose public hospitals and community health centres, while the other groups choose private hospitals more frequently. It is noteworthy that women in the camp usually give birth in hospitals, while the proportion of women who give birth at home is higher in the other groups. However, access to antenatal health care is less common among women in the camps, in contrast with the other groups. Moreover, preventive practices against the cholera (e.g. washing hands) are widespread among all respondents, but a minority drink treated water, in particular in the camps. In addition, most of the respondents in the camps are aware of at least one case of cholera in their immediate environment.

The study also shows that the perception of security improves among the resettled group, in contrast with the camps, and that the former have a better opinion of NGOs’ actions. However, most respondents in all groups are not aware of the actions implemented by community organizations and, to a lesser extent, by NGOs. Finally, it is noteworthy that the main channel of information in the camps is the télédiol (word of mouth), while the other groups usually rely on the radio.

Based on these results, the authors make the following recommendations:

–       To continue with the closure of IDP camps on the condition that resettlement solutions are found for each household;

–       To maintain aid programs in the camps until solutions for resettlement are found;

–       To develop resettlement programs tailored to the IDPs’ needs;

–       To monitor the situation of resettled households;

–       To support and organize urban development, in particular housing (including earthquake safety standards), basic infrastructure and public services (water, sanitation, waste disposal, public transports);

–       To support community organizations, and promote NGOs’ communication with the population.


The ACP Observatory on Migration is an initiative of the ACP Secretariat, funded by the European Union and implemented by IOM with the financial support of Switzerland, IOM, the IOM Development Fund and UNFPA. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the European Union, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the other members of the Consortium of the ACP Observatory on Migration, the Swiss Federation or UNFPA.


Thibaut Jaulin, Former MPC Research Fellow


One Comment on “Lessons from the earthquake in Haiti: A survey on the IDPs and on the resettled households (April 2012)”

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