PORT-AU-PRINCE, December 12, 2008 - The 2008 hurricane season ended on November 30th, but its devastating impact will remain in the memory of all Haitians for a long time. As the country faces enormous damages and losses, the World Bank and other international partners are working hard to support the Haitian Government’s recovery and reconstruction efforts.
In a period of three weeks beginning August 18, Haiti was affected by tropical storm Fay and hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and Ike which caused extensive flooding in nine of the country’s 10 departments. These floods caused significant damage to the agricultural sector and to public and private infrastructure including roads, bridges, water and sanitation systems, schools, hospitals and housing. While the impact of the storms was felt throughout the country, nowhere was the devastation more widespread than in Gonaives. Gonaives, a city with an estimated 350,000 inhabitants, was 80 percent destroyed when the River Quinte overflowed its banks, covering large areas of the city and surrounding farmland in mud, water, and debris.
Facing the devastation of the 2008 storms: the World Bank mobilizes new resources
In response to the Haitian Government’s request for assistance to evaluate damages and losses, the World Bank, the United Nations, the European Commission and other partners joined forces to conduct a comprehensive Post Disaster Needs Assessment financed in part through the World Bank-managed Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). The results of the assessment show that the overall impact of the storms constitutes the largest disaster for Haiti in more than a hundred years. Aggregated damage and losses are put at nearly US$900 million, or about 15 percent of Haiti’s GDP. The assessment includes a detailed strategic action plan for meeting early recovery needs, with a total cost of US$281 million.
Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank Group President who visited Haiti on October 20-22, 2008, saw for himself, by helicopter tour, the city of Gonaives, and said the devastation “makes your eyes pop.” He pressed for increased support during his press conference on October 22nd: “I sense that Haiti is at a tipping point. It could go either way,” Zoellick said. “We have to deal with the immediate needs, to deal with the social instability, but there's also a chance to build.”
Following the catastrophe, Haiti’s President, René Préval, made a call for “rebuilding better”, which the World Bank is actively supporting. On November 18, 2008 the World Bank approved a US$20 million additional emergency grant to Haiti to finance the rebuilding and emergency maintenance of key infrastructure, including major bridges, as well as reduce Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters. On November 25th, the State and Peace Building Fund approved US$5 million for water and sanitation works. The World Bank and the GFDRR will also provide technical assistance for other related issues such as mainstreaming disaster risk management into the country’s overall development strategy.
In addition, the Bank is planning the following recovery operations in the coming months: (i) US$8 million of additional funds for the Community-Driven Development project to help rural communities; and (ii) and US$5 million to rebuild schools.
The World Bank’s traditional commitment to disaster risk management in Haiti
The World Bank’s engagement to support Haiti’s disaster risk management program began in 2004, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Jeanne, when a pilot project of US$1 million, financed by the LICUS fund, was set up to strengthen the institutions responsible for managing risks of natural disasters. Then, through the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA), Haiti received a US$12 million grant to finance the Emergency Recovery and Disaster Risk Management Project (ERDMP). The project has since received additional financing, taking the total value up to US$19.4 million. The objectives of the project are to: (i) finance reconstruction of public infrastructure damaged by natural disasters; (ii) strengthen the country’s capacity to manage natural disaster risks and better respond to emergencies resulting from adverse natural events; and (iii) work at the community-level to implement risk identification and risk mitigation subprojects.
The project was instrumental in reducing the human toll of lives lost in the 2007 and 2008 hurricane seasons thanks to the formulation of preparedness plans, the training and equipping of rapid response teams, the introduction of early warning systems, the retrofitting of shelters, the creation of 54 local civil protection committees and the execution of risk mitigation projects in at risk areas. While the 2008 storms claimed the lives of 793 people and affected over 850,000, their impact was less deadly than in 2004 when Tropical Storm Jeanne claimed over 3,000 lives.
In March 2007, the World Bank financed Haiti’s entry fee and three-year membership for the CCRIF (Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility) with a grant of US$9 million. While the current coverage is triggered only by wind and ground acceleration, the World Bank is exploring options to cover flood-related damages.
After Hurricane Noel in October 2007, the World Bank also allocated an additional US$10 million to the Transport and Territorial Development Project for road reconstruction works in the south and southeast regions.
The World Bank has approved US$260 million in grants for Haiti since 2005 through the International Development Association (IDA), which provides interest-free loans and grants to low-income countries. In addition, Bank-administered trust funds have awarded more than US$20 million of grants to the country.
The ERDMP At-A-Glance:
Component 1. Rebuild damaged public infrastructure
Component 2. Strengthen the county’s capacity to manage natural risks and disasters
Component 3. Implement risk mitigation subprojects locally
Total Funding: US$19.4 million