– UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Haiti this week, putting the spotlight on a project that is helping Haitians who lost vital documentation needed to rebuild their lives after the devastating earthquake of January 2010.
During his visit on Wednesday and Thursday, Guterres also toured other UNHCR programmes and met government officials to discuss the need to provide assistance to the undocumented Haitians who lost everything in the earthquake, which destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and left tens of thousands dead.
Some 20 months after the earthquake struck, there are still more than 600,000 people living in about 1,000 spontaneous camps around Port-au-Prince and roughly 200,000 internally displaced people staying with host families in cramped makeshift housing.
Many of these people lost vital documents, including birth certificates. Moreover, because only about a quarter of Haitians are born in hospitals, many births go undocumented. These two factors have left a large portion of the population without proof of their identity, which can affect their ability to rebuild their lives.
”Providing a birth certificate helps Haitian citizens access their fundamental human right – proof of nationality. Without birth certificates, these people don’t exist,” Guterres said in Port-au-Prince. The High Commissioner appealed to the Haitian authorities to undertake legislative reforms to ensure that those without documentation can get birth certificates easily and for free.
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