Samuel believes that poor eyesight in Haiti is a punishment. After being fired from his job due to his disability, he found it impossible to find work. “It was very difficult to feed my family, let alone pay for my children’s education,” says a father of two.
48-year-old Samuel, who has been visually impaired for more than a decade, spent most of this time at Camp la Pest, in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The IDP site has been home to people with all forms of disabilities since the deadly 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.
Earthquakes and fire aren’t the only dangers Haitians like Samuel face. Since March 2020, an alarming increase in gang violence in Port-au-Prince has displaced some 19,000 people.
The violence has disrupted the delivery of humanitarian aid to some 1.5 million people in the capital and across the country, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)).
Disabled and homeless people regularly suffer from ongoing violence. The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM)International Organization for Migration) Provides life-saving protection assistance to the most vulnerable people affected by violence.
International Organization for Migration Project Officer Claire Gulen says people with disabilities have special needs. “These people who have been forcibly displaced, due to natural disasters or gang-related violence, need support to be moved to a safe place where they can live in safety and dignity,” adding that they “also require a medical examination to determine their health care needs. Many of them have not received Prolonged medical consultations which may sometimes exacerbate their conditions.”
They also received crutches and wheelchairs as well as dignity kits and a telephone support hotline to help them arrange their documents.
“People with disabilities in Haiti often face discrimination, so they need specific support for their inclusion and participation in their community,” Claire Gulin says. “Ultimately, they need support to regain their independence, which can be done by organizing training to help them develop income-generating activities and by giving them access to specialized services.”
IOM has established the Voluntary Relocation Support Service for more than 10,000 people living in neighborhoods most affected by violence, including more than 5,200 women and girls and 550 people with disabilities.
Meanwhile, IOM and its partners have also renovated Delmas 103, known to most as the Ecole Communale de Pétion-Ville. The school is now equipped with new desks and blackboards, ready to welcome students again, as soon as it is safe to do so.
Now Samuel has secured a new home that focuses on the health of his two teenage sons, who are losing some of their sight due to a genetic condition.
“Boys are haunted by the thought that they will go blind one day like their father,” Samuel says. “Now that I no longer live in temporary sites, I can take time to find a way to take care of my family, and continue my medical treatment in a safe environment.”