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FEATURE STORY May 31, 2018

"I am proud to build road infrastructure"


Fredeline Calvaire, a young woman in her thirties who works in the construction industry. 

World Bank

A bridge becomes a lifeline for many Haitians affected by Hurricane Matthew.

For more than two weeks, the city of Chardonnières, on the South coast of Haiti, has been bustling with activity. Amidst bystanders, small farmers, merchants, and schoolchildren, all going about their activities, is Fredeline Calvaire, a young woman in her thirties who works in the construction industry. While in the past, construction was exclusively done by men, today this slender and seemingly shy mother of four is applying her know-how to the building of a small bridge, that will link various communities of Chardonnières with the rest of the region.

After Hurricane Matthew dumped more than 23 inches of rain on Haiti, mostly across the southern peninsula, more than a million people were isolated due to impassable roads and surging rivers. The hurricane claimed more than 450 lives and caused damages totaling $2.778 billion (equivalent to 32% of the country’s GDP), including $106.4 million (18% of GDP) in damages in the transport sector.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, we were completely cut off from the rest of the area because the bridge was destroyed—washed away by the runoff. Whenever it rained in the nearby mountains, we couldn’t get to the health center or go to the market without risking our lives by crossing wild rivers, which often overflow and cause damage to people’s homes,” recalls a farmer living in the area.


World Bank

Strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities

Fredeline’s work aims to restore the access of rural communities to the outside World. Mobility is key to recovery in the aftermath of a hurricane. Because of its geographical location, Haiti is often exposed to extreme weather events, especially during the hurricane season, from June to November. In fact, with 96% of its population living at risk of being struck by a natural disaster Haiti’s vulnerability to cyclones is rated amongst the highest in the region. Disaster also affect Haiti’s economic growth prospects with, damages and losses costing the country an estimated average of $150 million per year since over the last forty years. 

To improve the resilience of vulnerable communities who depend on connectivity for their livelihoods, the World Bank supports the rehabilitation of critical points and other transport infrastructure of the road network including small bridges, protection works, and drainage in the Sud and Grand’Anse departments. These investments are implemented by the Ministry of Public Works and by beneficiary communities themselves, with the technical support of the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS).  

“Nearly 80 percent of transportation in Haiti is by road. After Matthew, it was essential to reconnect the affected communities and facilitate mobility and access to employment, education, and health care for the residents. Rehabilitation of the road system is crucial to boosting economic activity,” says Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti.

Promoting the female workforce

To carry out these works and restore mobility in the Sud and Grand'Anse departments, more than 18,000 temporary construction jobs have been generated, of which at least 40% go to women. A labor-intensive approach and a rotation of the work force drawn from local communities, is helping families who lost everything during the hurricane get back on their feet financially.

To enable more women to be recruited on construction sites, a hands-on training on construction work was conducted. As a result, 47% of ironworkers are now women, who earn more than unskilled laborers. “Now, thanks to this training, I specialize in the field of structural ironwork. I am better able to measure and I know how to use my tools. I am proud to build road infrastructure. This is opening up new livelihood opportunities for me,” says Fredeline, who has already completed basic training in masonry.