Ed Note: January 12 marks the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Over the next few days we will be running a series of posts taking a look at progress over the past year and what still needs to be done to help get Haiti back on its feet.

The International Organization for Migration just released a bit of good news:  For the first time in a year, the number of people living in spontaneous settlements — those tent cities housing Haitians made suddenly homeless by the earthquake–has fallen below 1 million people.

From the IOM:

An IOM country-wide assessment conducted between last November and January 2011 has found 810,000 people are still living in informal sites in Port-au-Prince and provinces. This is nearly half the figure last July of an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians. It is also the first time that the camp population in Haiti has dropped to well below one million.

The assessment, part of IOM’s work in leading and coordinating camp management efforts in post-earthquake Haiti and regularly carried out, suggests a downward trend in the camp population of about 100,000 people a month. The largest declines are being witnessed in the south of the country in rural or semi-urban areas where housing options are more easily available.

“While these figures seem a positive development, there is a long way to go. The displacement crisis in Haiti is the most visible and intractable issue. Getting people out of camps and into durable housing is key to long term recovery. However, there are many obstacles to doing this quickly and for Haitians, solutions can’t come quickly enough,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

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Until more permanent houses can be built, transitional shelters which can last up to five years are the best option. IOM is complementing its work to assist the displaced by building 8110 shelters in the most affected areas. To date, 3000 shelters have been completed by IOM.

Although camp management activities have been the least funded of any humanitarian response in Haiti (43%), IOM and partners are regularly monitoring 100 per cent of all spontaneous settlements to track levels of service and to raise awareness on difficulties that the displaced face. For 2011, the camp management cluster of humanitarian agencies has appealed for USD 93 million.