WASHINGTON—Haitian women left sheltering in squalid tent cities 14 months after a devastating earthquake are being terrorized by a plague of sexual attacks and rapes, rights activists said Friday.
There has been a “relentless epidemic of sexual violence and continued impunity,” said Lisa Davis, director of the international women’s rights group Madre, at a conference organized by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Officials say some 800,000 people, out of the 1.3 million left homeless by the January 2010 quake, are still living in precarious and vulnerable conditions in the camps.
Davis said there had been little progress in the months since the 7.0 quake struck, leveling much of the Caribbean country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
“The majority of the camps do not have facilities for the women and girls,” agreed Eramithe Delva, from the Haitian organization Kofaviv which helps victims of sexual violence.
“As a result, the women and girls shower outside,” she said. Her group registered some 465 cases of rape in the camps last year, and 90 so far in the first two months of 2011.
Following an attack, the distressed women have no access to medical services which makes it difficult to report an assault as they are required to provide a medical certificate as proof, Delva added.
But Natacha Clerge, from the Haitian Women’s Ministry, said they had not detected a major rise in the number of rapes.
She said Haitian authorities have made an effort to improve conditions in the camps, but were still hampered by a lack of resources and the overwhelming devastation.