PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 14, 2010 - Six months after Haiti's earthquake of January 12 tragically impacted the lives of thousands of Haitians, the World Bank has urged donors to deliver on their aid pledges in order to keep the reconstruction momentum going.
As fiscal agent for the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (HRF) the Bank has so far received formal confirmation for $98 million of the $500 million promised following the United Nations donor conference of late March where $5.3 billion were pledged to help Haiti recover from the catastrophe. Typically, trust fund contributions account for 10-15 percent of overall commitments, with the vast majority of pledges going through bilateral aid.
To date, Brazil is the largest contributor to the fund with $55 million, followed by Norway ($31.2 million), Australia ($8.6 million), Colombia ($ 3.2 million) and Estonia ($50,000). Additional contributions are expected from Canada, the European Commission, France, Georgia, Mauritius, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S.
"We are currently urging the international community to make good on their pledges, but we also understand that many donor countries need to get approval from their budgetary systems," said World Bank Regional Vice President Pamela Cox, while noting that she expects contributions to be met over the lifetime of trust fund.
As questions about the pace of reconstruction linger, Bank officials have stressed the importance of keeping a balance between disbursement of funds and good governance, which proved to be a success in Aceh's reconstruction following its devastating 2004 tsunami.
Cox noted that the Bank –as well as donors and partner institutions- are committed to rapid results for Haiti within a good governance framework. Speed is of the essence –she said- but so are controls to ensure that funds are not misspent and results are achieved.
"The Aceh experience shows that this is the key to success. That means projects must be viable and designed to truly benefit the poor," she said.
Haiti Reconstruction Fund Cost-Effective
Established in March at the request of the Haitian government, the HRF's role is to support Haiti's earthquake response, in partnership with the United Nations (UN) and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB).
The fund's actions complement and support any other bilateral initiatives by pooling resources from many donors and reducing transaction costs for government and donors, says World Bank Haiti Country Director Yvonne Tsikata.
"The beauty of this multi-donor approach is that we draw on the comparative advantages of proven international and locally-active partners such as the IDB, the UN and others," said Tsikata.
The first request for HRF financing was made on June 17 and, that same day, the HRF's steering committee allocated $30 million in budget support to help the government provide critical services to the Haitian people. Money from the fund will leverage an additional $30 million of IDA grants from the World Bank in budget support, explained fund manager Joseph Leitmann. Trust fund activities can be tracked online at haitireconstructionfund.org.
Bank's Emergency Response in Haiti
In addition to the HRF contribution to Haiti's recovery, the World Bank has provided reconstruction support to the tune of $479 million. Of those, $56.6 million have been already used for various government-led projects, $39 million were written off as part of Haiti's Bank debt cancellation and $35 million from the Bank's private sector arm, the IFC, were used to support Haiti's private development.
The Bank's initial response following the earthquake has focused on improving the lot of those affected while contributing to build the foundations for a long term recovery, said Tsikata.
Emergency projects include: rebuilding the state's capacity to operate, clearing the city's drainage canals to avoid flooding, feeding school children, providing solar energy to displaced Haitians, assessing housing damage and rebuilding crucial roads and bridges for the delivery of aid.
Bank Support to Haiti's Earthquake Response
A $65 million grant for the Haiti Infrastructure and Institutional Emergency Response Project (HIIERP) was approved by the board on March 18. Beyond providing immediate relief to affected Haitians, the grant supports critical work to repair damaged roads and bridges and to rebuild the government's capacity to function.
1) emergency action with $4 million transferred to the World Food Program and World Health Organization for immediate health and nutrition relief;
2) temporary buildings set up to help the Ministry of Finance and the Internal Revenue Service resume essential activities;
3) more than 160,000 buildings assessed within the damaged building assessment initiative with the Ministry of Public Works in the lead;
4) about 90,000 cubic meters of trash and debris removed from canals, thus limiting the flooding risk especially for displaced people
5) distribution of solar lanterns, which are great for security (reduced fire hazard and better lighting).
Additional grant financing has been processed for the Rural Community-Driven Project PRODEP to ensure continued assistance for small infrastructure works and productive activities to help rural communities currently under stress from increased influx of people displaced by the earthquake.
Focus on agriculture:
The Bank's agriculture project has been restructured and Bank experts are working side by side with the Haitian government to help implement its agriculture strategy and define the program financed by the The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program ($35 million).
Housing for the poor:
A $25 million community-based housing project is being prepared for poor households in urban neighborhoods. The Bank has restructured its disaster management projects to facilitate the recovery and is closely working with the ministry of interior and civil protection institutions to improve emergency preparedness in communities all over the country.
Education for all:
80% of the schools in the Port-au-Prince area have reopened. A $12 million additional grant for the Education for All project will help 140,000 kids to continue to go to schools with tuition waiver. Around 50,000 kids will continue to benefit from the school feeding program in more than 1,200 non-public schools.
Many of these initiatives rely on the strength of community-driven projects that have been providing Haitians with opportunities to weather the catastrophe through cash- for-work programs and funding for community business rehabilitation. Since March 2010 over 40 such initiatives have been implemented, directly benefiting 5,000 Haitians in Port-au-Prince's poorest areas such as Solino, Cité Soleil, Martissant, Belair, and Delmas 32, says World Bank senior infrastructure economist Nicolas Peltier.
"As we get into early recovery and soon into reconstruction we need to be aware that huge resources will be needed and this is something that cannot be resolved in six months; resources have to be brought very quickly because we are talking about a 10, 20 year reconstruction program, with lots of coordination, lots of efforts and lots of resources needed," said Peltier.
That's why it is important that money from the donor community rapidly flows into Haiti and the Haitian government keeps its end of the bargain by making timely decisions, said Cox.
By way of example, the Bank's top regional official explained that the government's Interim Reconstruction Commission charged with leading the country's recovery was set up only a month ago while decisions on land allocation for the relocation of displaced Haitians are still pending.
"We understand that the earthquake decimated the government's operational capacity but we also need them in the driver's seat for this effort," said Cox. "We're here to help them rebuild their nation," she added.