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Rape and sex violence on the rise in Haiti

Haitian women displaced by last January's earthquake are facing an increased risk of rape or sexual violence.

Haitian woman
A Haitian woman walks by dwellings created by World Vision and UNICEF as they take part on Jan. 4, 2011 in the building of small houses for the victims of the quake of Jan. 12, 2010, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Haitians are still clustered by the thousands in makeshift camps intended to offer only temporary shelter after their own homes disappeared. (Thony Belizaire//AFP/Getty Images)

Haitian women displaced by last year's earthquake living in makeshift camps, who are at risk from cholera epidemics, food shortages and political instability, now face an increased risk of rape or sexual violence.

Amnesty International said that hundreds of women and girls have been sexually assaulted since the earthquake, often by groups of armed men who roam the camps after dark.

Rape only became a criminal offence in Haiti in 2005 and was a big problem before the Jan. 12 earthquake, which killed about a quarter of a million people and left more than a million homeless.

The situation had been exacerbated by the conditions since the earthquake, with more than 250 cases of rape in several camps reported in the first 150 days after January’s earthquake, according to data cited in the Amnesty report, "Aftershocks: Women speak out against sexual violence in Haiti’s camps." Rape victims continued to report to a local women’s support group "almost every other day," the report said. 

The limited assistance the authorities previously provided had been undermined by the destruction of police stations and court houses, which had made reporting sexual violence more difficult.

More than a million people still live in appalling conditions in tent cities in the capital Port-au-Prince and in the south of Haiti. 

In the meantime, another leading international charity, the British-based Oxfam, released a report Wednesday that sharply criticized a recovery commission led by former President Bill Clinton.

While acknowledging that disaster recovery can be slow even in developed countries, Oxfam said efforts in Haiti had been paralyzed by a lack of leadership.

"As Haitians prepare for the first anniversary of the earthquake, close to one million people are reportedly still displaced," the report said. "Less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed."

The report, titled "A year of indecision leaves Haiti's recovery at a standstill," cited U.N. figures showing that less than 45 percent of the $2.1 billion pledged for Haiti's reconstruction during 2010 at an international donor conference in New York in March had been disbursed.

But a reconstruction commission chaired by Clinton and Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive also came in for criticism: "So far, the commission has failed to live up to its mandate," the report said. "The commission is a key element for reconstruction and it must cut through the quagmire of indecision and delay."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/africa/110106/women-rape-sex-haiti-earthquake-disaster