UNFPA Haiti has installed 200 cost-efficient, environmentally friendly and durable streetlights in 40 of the camps set up for people who were displaced by the 2010 earthquake. The lights are being installed near showers, latrines, and water distribution points – places where women may be vulnerable to gender-based violence. This project was made possible thanks to the support of the United Nations Foundation and the American music band Linkin Park, who collected funds through a sensitization campaign among its fans.
Of the 1.5 million people who were displaced by the earthquake in January 2010, 680,000 people remain in camps, as reconstruction efforts have not been able to meet the demand for housing. Gender-based violence has become an alarming issue in Haiti, where the combination of darkness and cramped conditions within camps creates insecurity. In some of the larger camps, rapes are almost a daily occurrence. UNFPA is still fundraising for more lights for about 1000 camps throughout Haiti.
On 13 April Dave ‘Phoenix’ Farrell of Linkin Park and UN Foundation Vice President for Public Policy Peter Yeo visited Corail camps where UNFPA installed 30 solar lights. UNFPA staff briefed them about the impact of the project and the existing needs. During his visit around the camp, David Farrell realized that the lights also had multiple functions within the camp. “When I asked a young girl named Jessica about how she studied at night, her eyes lit up, and she replied ‘la lumiere!’” he later explained.
“These lights are important but they are also emblematic of a larger problem,” says Igor Bosc, UNFPA representative in Haiti. “Women living in camps face tremendous challenges, which also include a limited access to health services and maternities,” he explains. Indeed, the pregnancy rate in Haiti has significantly increased since the earthquake in January 2010. UNFPA has therefore initiated the ‘Clinique Sourire’ project, whereas 15 maternities will be built by the end of the year. Still, Mr. Bosc points out that the country currently needs about 84 maternities to respond to the needs of pregnant women.