Changing Gears in Haiti: From Recovery to Growth
September 27, 2012
Almost three years since the terrible earthquake, Haiti seems to have math on its side.
New reconstruction numbers speak volumes. Port-au-Prince’s roads are once again drivable after most of 11 million cubic meters of debris has been removed. One million displaced Haitians have left the camps, 2 million school children have been receiving free meals every day and 1.5 million under-fives are receiving healthcare, among other accomplishments.
The new government’s motto, rebuilding Haiti 'vite et bien', quickly and well, is adding up.
“We didn’t have any money to pay the rent anymore, so the new house is a total improvement for us. We never thought to have such a beautiful home," said Francois Calvaire, 31, who lives with his aging parents in a brand new house built as part of the recovery efforts.
Those efforts got a big boost today following the approval of a new strategic plan to support Haiti’s reconstruction over the next two years.
The 2013-14 Haiti Interim Strategy Note (ISN) provides US$245 million in grants to build upon the country’s recent gains on health, education, housing, agriculture and job creation among other vital areas. Haiti’s ISN underpins the country’s long-term development plans by shoring up institutions and improving the climate for private investment.
“We have seen substantial progress after the earthquake, but more needs to be done to accelerate the reconstruction,” said World Bank Regional Vice President Hasan Tuluy while stressing that the Bank will continue to support key activities in those areas.
“Reconstruction, basic health and education services remain vital to address urgent needs of the population,” he noted.
The ISN’s focus on people is paramount. It will continue to make Haiti a safer place and Haitians healthier and better served by public agencies.
All told, the new strategy will improve disaster vulnerability; rebuild and repair homes in a more resilient fashion; boost cholera prevention and treatment for 1.5 million people and, most importantly, improve access to electricity for 600,000 people. Beyond immediate concerns, the ISN will also help drive longer-term development plans such as stregthening institutions and spurring tourism.
We have seen substantial progress after the earthquake, but more needs to be done to accelerate the reconstruction
Community involvement is key
Success for these initiatives relies heavily on grass roots organizations with a strong attachment to their communities.
It’s all about people helping other people, in the words of a volunteer.
“We show people how to save their lives, in the case of flooding, earthquakes, or hurricanes. We show them how they can protect themselves,” said Magalie Robert-Francois from the Committee for Risk and Disaster Response and Rehabilitation for the commune of Tabarre.
Magalie is so convinced of the program’s impact that she has called for it to be implemented nationwide.
“It's a good program, that’s why it is important to have this program expanded throughout the whole country, so everyone can have a better understanding of risk and have a plan to deal with it,” she said.
That’s how Haitians have learned to weather many powerful storms, including hurricane Tomas in 2010 and, more recently, tropical storm Isaac, which would have had much bigger impact had it not been for the country's renewed sense of preparedness. Contingency plans for hurricane season and regular simulation exercises have made officials, first responders and regular folks aware of protocols and to how best respond in an emergency, say disaster experts.
Striving to make everybody safe
Government officials do recognize that there’s still a long way to go to make everybody safe.
"There are camps that are at risk, we saw this during the last hurricane,” acknowledged Patrick Rouzier, advisor to Haitian president Michel Martelly.
He explained that his government is addressing these issues in a comprehensive manner.
“The idea isn’t just to put back the people in their original neighborhoods. We know that there may not be enough space there. At a minimum, we have to save lives. So it’s a parallel issue, where we send people back to their neighborhoods but also support new developments in these neighborhoods to create the necessary space for the demand," noted Rouzier.
He says officials are striving to make Haiti a safer place not only for its citizens but for business as well.
The government’s ‘Haiti is open for business’ campaign has resonated well with foreign investors, donors and the Haitian diaspora as well.
To date, the IFC’s portfolio in Haiti amounts to US$55 million, including $15 million mobilized from other sources. The IFC also structured the largest foreign direct investment since the earthquake -Viettel’s US$100 million stake in Haitian TELECO, to upgrade the country’s telecommunications system.
In a move to kick start reconstruction and reassure the donor community, Haitian Prime Minister Lauren Lamothe will announce today a new Reconstruction Commission at the UN’s General Assembly, the Miami Herald reported. World Bank top officials will meet Haitian leaders in New York to review the Bank’s assistance and reiterate the institution’s support to Haiti.
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