The ICRC in Haiti
The Port-au-Prince delegation covers Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, its main humanitarian activities are visiting detainees and aiding the Haitian Red Cross and other Movement partners in the safe provision of services to residents of violence-prone areas. The delegation promotes international humanitarian law in both countries and provides support for the National Societies in developing core activities such as disaster preparedness and response, restoring family links, and first aid.
The ICRC has had a permanent presence in Haiti since 1994, concentrating on visiting detainees and lending support to the authorities in improving conditions of detention. ICRC delegates first visited a Haitian prison in 1967. In 2004, the impact of internal violence on the impoverished inhabitants of certain areas in Port-au-Prince was such that the ICRC stepped up its presence: it opened a delegation, to lend more effective support to Haitian Red Cross volunteers providing first aid and medical evacuations in the slum districts of Cité Soleil and Martissant. Since then, over 10,000 sick or injured people have received medical treatment via ICRC-supported Red Cross emergency facilities in these two areas.
Conditions of detention in Haiti are well below internationally recognized standards. Over the years, the ICRC has provided support for health, technical and legal assistance services in prisons, and repaired water and sanitation systems. In emergencies, the ICRC has distributed food and hygiene materials. Detainees live in overcrowded cells with limited access to water, fresh air and medical facilities, so the ICRC’s support makes a real difference.
The ICRC provides medical assistance to Haitian prisons regularly. During the cholera epidemic at the end of 2010, the ICRC was the principal organization providing support to prison authorities: it aided them in setting up treatment and prevention protocols in places of detention throughout Haiti and in providing essential medical assistance and prophylaxis.
The ICRC works closely with the prison authorities and has full access to places of detention. It actively supports a particular branch of the Ministry of Justice, recently established and given the task of addressing urgent humanitarian needs and judicial guarantees and formulating mid- to long-term prison reform.
Violence in Cité Soleil and Martissant
Violence in Cité Soleil and Martissant, and in other impoverished sections of Port-au-Prince, has declined since 2008. However, humanitarian and social programmes in these areas continued to be menaced by crime and gang-related activities. The ICRC works closely with the Haitian Red Cross and its Movement partners to ensure the safety of Red Cross volunteers and workers and respect for the red cross emblem.
The 2010 earthquake
In 2010, the ICRC deployed its rapid response capacity to help the Haitian Red Cross aid the vast numbers of Haitians affected by the devastating earthquake that struck the country on 12 January. In line with Movement agreements, it rapidly handed over coordination of the Movement’s response to the International Federation. An ongoing project to provide clean water to Cité Soleil was reviewed in light of damage caused by the earthquake. In 2012, work was completed on four pumping stations, ensuring access to water for some 200,000 people.
The ICRC Special Fund for the Disabled also stepped in to reconstruct a physical rehabilitation clinic destroyed by the earthquake; the clinic had been run by the only organization providing such services before the disaster (Healing Hands for Haiti).
In both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the ICRC promotes the adoption and incorporation in domestic law of international humanitarian law; it also conducts information sessions for authorities, community leaders and weapon bearers. Among weapon bearers – police officers, soldiers, UN peacekeepers, gang members, and so on – the ICRC promotes basic humanitarian principles and, when applicable, regulation of the use of force. The ICRC also provides support to the National Societies of both countries in their ongoing efforts to bolster core activities such as first aid, disaster preparedness and response, restoring family links and public communication.