The Brookings Institution and the International Organization for Migration

Supporting Durable Solutions to Urban, Post-Disaster Displacement: Challenges and Opportunities in Haiti

Four years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, this study examines the question of durable solutions to displacement in Port-au-Prince, recognizing that the challenges faced in Haiti may be a source of insight for responses to other urban, post-disaster displacement crises—which are expected to become more common in the future.

Internally displaced child in a camp in HaitiThe earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 sparked a massive displacement crisis in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding metropolitan area, home to an estimated 2.8 million residents at the time. At the peak of the crisis, over 1,500 camps sheltering 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) were scattered across Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions. In addition, thousands of IDPs sought shelter with friends and family. Four years later, approximately 147,000 IDPs remain in 271 camps. While these declines are dramatic, it is difficult to determine the extent to which those uprooted by the earthquake have been able to access truly durable solutions to their displacement, and what should be done to support solutions for those who are still displaced.

Using the 2010 IASC Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons as the main point of reference, this study examines the question of durable solutions to displacement in Port-au-Prince, recognizing that the challenges faced in Haiti may be a source of insight for responses to other urban, post-disaster displacement crises—which are expected to become more common in the future.

The study draws on the results of focus groups in camps and communities, site visits, in-depth interviews and a survey of 2,576 households (outside camps) in Port-au-Prince. 49.5 percent of respondent households indicated that they had to leave their homes because of the earthquake; 50.5 percent indicated that they were not displaced by the disaster. Of those who were displaced in 2010, 74 percent continue to identify themselves as displaced, even though they were not currently resident in a camp, underscoring that durable solutions to displacement are about more than closing camps, and the long-term nature of the challenge of rebuilding “home” in the aftermath of disaster.

As the earthquake response moves into its fifth year, attention continues to focus on the camps. While supporting the closure or regularization and integration of the remaining camps is a key goal, it is also essential to look beyond the camps to support a range of durable solutions at the community level, for the benefit of those who were displaced and their neighbors. At the same time, the lessons that Haiti's experiences raise for other crises need to be recognized and internalized. With this in mind, the following general and country-specific recommendations are offered:

General Recommendations for Supporting Durable Solutions in Urban, Post-Disaster Conflicts
 

  • Strengthen the application of the IASC Framework in post-disaster and urban situations;
  • Recognize durable solutions as a development concern;
  • Develop and implement contextualized durable solutions strategies;
  • Increase advocacy and accountability for providing effective durable solutions support;
  • Strenghten long-term engagement and analysis. 

 

Recommendations for Supporting Durable Solutions in Haiti
 

  • Enhance cross-sectoral support for durable solutions;
  • Integrate displacement and durable solutions into relevant plans and policies;
  • Consider alternative and differentiated support for IDPs remaining in camps;
  • Support the safe expansion of the rental market, and the construction of new housing units;
  • Facilitate the replacement or issuance of official documentation;
  • Invest in disaster risk reduction efforts as key elements of durable solutions;
  • Strengthen the protection focus;
  • Increase support for and engagement of local actors;
  • Support IDPs' own durable solutions efforts.