PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) – The number of people living in the precarious settlements that became glaring symbols of the Haitian earthquake’s devastation has dropped below 400,000 for the first time since the January 2010 disaster, according to an aid group’s report released Tuesday.
The International Organization for Migration says there are now 390,276 people living in the precarious settlements that were erected in the aftermath of the earthquake.
This figure is down from the high of some 1.5 million people who were staying in the camps six months after the quake. It is also a drop of 7 percent from April.
The reduction in the camp population is attributed to a combination of forced removals, rental subsidies and voluntary departures, but it is not clear where the bulk of the people have gone or if their living arrangements are better than the camp conditions.
A government relocation effort conducted with the migration organization offered people $500 rental subsidies for a year but the project targeted only 5 percent of the camp population.
“As for the rest we don’t know,” said organization spokesman Leonard Doyle. “A lot of these people we know have pitched tents on the side of the mountains.”
Even before the quake, many people in the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince built ramshackle homes on hillsides due to a lack of affordable housing for the poor majority.
The housing issue remains hot. On Monday, more than 1,000 protesters blasted a reported government plan to evict renters from their shanty homes to reforest the hillsides.
The organization’s figures were released following a three-day visit by its director general, William Lacy Swing, who is a former U.S. ambassador to Haiti.