As tropical storm Emily bears down on Haiti, the internally displaced camps (IDP) are in the news again. A point that is often overlooked in the stories about the camps is that the earthquake did not cause the housing problem in Haiti. Decades of poor economic policy and neglect resulted in a constant migration of farmers to the capital seeking better economic opportunities. As a result, shanty towns have popped up all over the Port-au-Prince and its surrounding neighborhoods. Indeed, millions of people in Haiti lived in deplorable, unsanitary conditions before January 12, 2010. The earthquake simply brought their plight to the surface.
Through the years, there have been a many solutions proposed for how to deal with the overcrowding problem in Port-au-Prince. However, there has been very little evidence of any of them being implemented. So far, the most visible action has been the forceful eviction of the IDP camps.
Kicking people out of the IDP camps without providing them with an adequate alternative will not solve the problem. It is true that some people will become discouraged and return to the countryside but most of them will most likely move to another IDP camp or shanty town. The problem may become less visible but it will still exist.