Thousands of Haitians Escape from Desperation… to Die in the Ocean
Thousands of peoples from Haiti and other Caribbean countries have been risking their lives trying to escape by sea from difficult living situations in their homelands, the [UN](http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42470&Cr=haiti&Cr1=) warns.
“Continuing difficulties in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake are leading thousands of Haitians to flee their homeland each year, often in unseaworthy vessels,” [said Melissa Fleming](http://www.unhcr.org/4ffff6becf.html), spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees ([UNHCR](http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home)).
“Although no firm statistics exist, it is estimated that hundreds of deaths occur yearly as a result.”
**Dying in the Sea**
On Tuesday, a woman drowned when a boat carrying more than 100 Haitian migrants ran aground near the Bahamas. In an earlier incident on 12 June, more than a dozen Haitians lost their lives in Bahamian and United States waters while trying to reach the shores of Florida, UNHCR reported.
“These events are a reminder of the extremes that people in difficult situations sometimes resort to,” said Fleming.
**Over 400,000 People Still Homeless at Home**
Inside Haiti, some 421,000 people are still living in camps in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere in the country. The political situation remains tense, with increased levels of criminality and insecurity, the UN reported.
US Coast Guard data shows that since December over 900 people have been found on boats in rescue or interception operations, including some 652 Haitians, 146 Cubans and 111 people from the Dominican Republic.
Fleming said UNHCR is also concerned about countries returning people to Haiti, ignoring an earlier joint appeal by UNHCR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ([OHCHR](http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx)) asking States not to return Haitians, for humanitarian reasons, without adequate individual protection screening.
“UNHCR continues to advocate for the inclusion of adequate protection safeguards for individuals apprehended at sea, and hopes that such tragedies can be avoided in the future through enhanced international cooperation in the region,” Fleming said.
**No Funds For Humanitarian Services**
On 27 March 2012, the United Nations and the Government of Haiti voiced concern over a lack of resources to fund humanitarian services that are still required to help people in the Caribbean country recover from recent crises, including the 2010 earthquake and the cholera epidemic, and enhance preparedness ahead of the hurricane season.
According to a statement issued on behalf of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, Nigel Fisher, the humanitarian community seeks $231 million to fund its work in the island nation this year – so far, it has only received 8.5 per cent of that amount. In 2011, it sought $382 million, but received only 55 per cent of that amount, forcing many humanitarian organizations to scale back critical services in camps and cholera-affected areas.
**Just 8 Million Dollars!**
As a result of the funding shortfall, Haiti was selected to receive an emergency allocation of $8 million from the UN-managed Central Emergency Response Fund ([CERF](http://www.unocha.org/cerf/)), a fund established to enable more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to underfunded crises, the [UN reported](http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41653&Cr=haiti&Cr1=).
The $8 million will allow partners to address urgent priority needs, but it will not be sufficient to meet the many humanitarian challenges this year. Relief agencies have requested $53.9 million for urgent humanitarian work between April and June alone.
Although the number of those living in the camps after their homes were destroyed by the massive earthquake in January 2010 has declined dramatically, almost half a million people still live such settlements, where they are exposed to cholera and the risk of flooding, especially during the May to November hurricane season, the statement said.
**Cholera Epidemic, Floods, Sexual Violence…**
The cholera epidemic has claimed the lives of 7,000 Haitians since October 2010 and made some 500,000 others sick.
The requested funds would be used to assist those who will not be able to move out of camps before Haiti’s rainy season; protect camps vulnerable to flooding; provide protection for those who are exposed to sexual abuse and other forms of violence; and support the anti-cholera campaign.
Resources are also required to improve access to clean water and maintain solid waste management and hygiene promotion; increase the pace of construction of transitional shelters and the provision of rental subsidies; and strengthen preparedness ahead of the hurricane season.
[2012 Human Wrongs Watch](http://human-wrongs-watch.net)