At the Toussaint Louverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, I spot Ronal’s taptap, pick-up-turned-public-bus, painted to resemble an Argentine flag - a salute to his favored team in last year’s World Cup soccer match. Ronal’s first report is about his glee over last month’s return of Jean-Claude Duvalier. Duvalier’s ouster in 1986 following popular uprisings ended a three-decade regime which was one of the most brutal, neglectful, and corrupt regimes in the hemisphere’s history.
Ronel Thelusmond is the director of the technical division of the National Institute for the Application of Agrarian Reform (INARA), part of the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture. An element of INARA’s mission is to manage land conflicts, particularly as they relate to national development. We asked Ronel how the government could address the complications of land tenure and land concentration to get housing for the estimated 1.5 million people who lost their homes during the earthquake and who are now living under sheets of plastic or nylon in the streets and other public spaces.
“Everyone expects there to be a new problem daily in Haiti. I can’t concentrate on problems each day,” said Roseanne Auguste, coordinator of a youth art program in the sprawling, under-resourced Port-au-Prince section of Carrefour-Feuilles. The program is run through the community clinic Association for the Promotion of Family Integrated Health (APROSIFA).
While the eyes of the world are on Haiti’s illegitimate elections and the return of the deposed dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, about 1.5 million displaced earthquake survivors continue to live in sub-human conditions. In the absence of large-scale or systemic responses by the government, international community, or aid organizations, progressive civil society organizations are evolving strategies to win the right to housing.