Reconstructing Haiti’s Transportation Infrastructure Following Natural Disasters

October 3, 2016


The Mirebalais bridge.

Following the severe storms of the 2008 hurricane season (Tropical Storms Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Hurricane Ike), the Emergency Bridge Reconstruction and Vulnerability Reduction Project (PROReV) contributed to the reestablishment of road access for over 2 million people, connect isolated departments, and strengthened the National Disaster Risk Management System (NDRMS).


At the time of Project approval, in November 2008, Haiti had struggled for several decades to emerge from a cycle of political instability and internal conflicts that devastated its economy and weakened state institutions, worsened by poor governance practices which maintained or deepened poverty.  In 2004, Haiti was devastated by Hurricane Jeanne, which caused some US$169.5 million in damages, and took more than 4,000 lives.  Tropical Storm Noel, which struck Haiti in October 2007, caused flash floods and mudslides in the Western part of the country, resulting in 66 deaths and almost 15,000 lost homes.  In March 2008, rising world prices for food and oil triggered violent protests, leading the Senate to vote then Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis out of office.  Finally, after a period of political instability during which the country did not have a confirmed Government, the 2008 hurricane season was particularly severe, with the passage of three major tropical storms and one hurricane (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike - FGHI) over a four-week period.  The combined toll of these storms was some 793 killed, and 301 injured, with 1 million people affected.  The result was a collapse of the already weak national transport system—several main roads and bridges were heavily damaged, stifling the passage of goods and services and cutting off entire regions from others—and major crop destruction that crippled food production.  The Post Disaster Needs Assessment estimated the total damage of FGHI at $897 million, or the equivalent of 14.6 percent of the GDP.  All of this was exacerbated by the 2010 earthquake that occurred two years into project implementation and caused unprecedented damage, by far the worst natural disaster to strike Haiti in recent history.  


In response to the 2008 hurricane season, project resources were channeled to repair and reinforce transport infrastructure, key to ensure the continuity of the national road network and restore connectivity to the isolated departments.   To provide a sustainable mechanism for improved emergency capacity response, the World Bank also provided tools and technical assistance to strengthen Haiti’s National Disaster Risk Management System.  The project also allowed the country to develop the first national data through the Rural Access Index, which included the mapping of the national road network and critical sections.


Between 2009 and 2015, the project restored and improved access for local communities, contributed to building knowledge and to improving management capacity within the NDRMS.

  • The project immediately reconnected three severed national roads (RN1, RN2, and RN7), critical for the connectivity in the targeted region and reestablishing access to key economic, social and emergency services of about 2 million affected people;
  • The project allowed the completion of the “La Theme” Bridge. By drastically improving access to Mirebalais in all-weather conditions, “La Theme” Bridge” ensure consistent access to the  best-equipped hospital in the country and to a major regional road along the fertile valley of Artibonite, supporting the rice and mango agricultural production;
  • Ten emergency bridges were purchased and installed. Twenty weakened bridges and road sections were repaired, stabilizing yea-round road access within four departments, resulting in approximately 2 million direct and indirect beneficiaries;
  • The repair and protection of bridges and critical spot intervention resulted in the combined rehabilitation of 200 km of road;
  • State capacities to respond to emergencies and institutional capacity to reduce vulnerability were improved through the creation of a Vulnerability Reduction Unit (CRV) within the Inter-ministerial Committee for Territorial Development (Comité Interministériel d’Aménagement du Territoire, CIAT), and a CRV and Bridge Management Unit within the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications (MTPTC);
  • The project also financed the establishment and execution of the Rural Access Index (RAI).

" Access to health care was virtually cut off before the new bridge. It was a very difficult time. For night emergencies, we had decided to post an ambulance on the other side of the river, in order to transport the sick to Lascahobas (a small neighboring town). From our side there were not many people, it was a new area. The hospital was separated from the rest of the city and the department of the Centre also because they covered 150,000 inhabitants.  "

Dr. Pierre-Marie Cherenfant

Chief medical officer at the University Hospital of Mirebalais

Bank Group Contribution

The Bank contributed US$20 million through an IDA grant in response to a request from the Government of Haiti for financial and technical assistance to support its Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and the recovery and reconstruction program. A World Bank technical assistance team was also deployed in the immediate aftermath of Tropical Storm Gustav (second storm) to assist the MTPTC in dealing with the emergency operations and to provide technical guidance on immediate repair and designs to restore minimal connectivity.


The Bank successfully coordinated with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the French Development Agency (Agence Francaise de Développement, AFD) to address emergency transport needs.  The Sector Coordination Committee (Table Sectorielle Transport) was also used during project preparation to coordinate and orientate complementary interventions. Strong cooperation between development organizations such as the Bank, AFD and the USAID was a factor of success, especially in the context of the emergencies.

Moving Forward

At the request of the Government of Haiti, the Bank prepared another investment operation building on the successes of PROReV.  The Disaster Risk Management and Reconstruction Project (DRMDP – P126346) is currently on-going and is building directly upon the construction of resilient infrastructure approach spearheaded by PROReV. Additionally, the Center and Artibonite Regional Development Project (CARDP - P133352) draws on the groundwork laid by PROReV in those departments.

By successfully applying many of the lessons learned from PROReV, these projects are sustaining the PROReV-spearheaded concepts and Bank engagement in road network connectivity and resiliency in Haiti.

The project, and the Rural Access Index (RAI) study in particular, has resulted in an increase in resources dedicated to connectivity issues.  Based on the preliminary results, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) has increased the budget dedicated to strengthening rural connectivity in order to enhance access to the most isolated areas.  This financing will result in additional benefits by: (i) linking small farmers to markets; and (ii) allowing improved delivery of essential basic services and support increased resilience of remote communities.


Beneficiaries included:

  • The population of the isolated departments (South, Grande Anse, Center, and Artibonite) following the impact of FGHI;
  • The riverside populations of targeted interventions of the activities, for example, Mirebalais, Solon, Cavaillon, etc;
  • Institutions in charge of risk management and resilience MTPTC, Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation (MPCE-Ministère de la Planification et de la Coopération Externe), CIAT under the Prime Minister’s Office (Primature), and National Disaster Risk Management Plan (NDRMP) as part of the NDRMS.

Selected quotes from beneficiaries: 

  • Judeline is returning from the hospital over the bridge with her daughter. She is glad she is able to cross over the river without having to use a motorcycle taxi which used to violently shake her and her daughter on the ford. "Now I can go walk with my child, the cars go from one side and us on the other," she says, smiling. Transportation was particularly difficult for children, the sick and pregnant women.
  • For months, the disappearance of the bridge also affected the connectivity between three departments: Artibonite, North West and especially for trucks with high tonnage and tourists. For Doctor Cherenfant, "The bridge is fundamental at a strategic level, the far north goes through Mirebalais especially when there are problems on the road n1."
  • Moreover, it connects tourists to institutions located on the bank of the hospital and allows the organization of entertainment activities. “90% of “Auberge international” clients are international travelers and come from Port-au-Prince. "Before the (new) bridge there was no business," says Pierre Martin, the owner of the inn. "It was an isolated area. Even if we wanted to travel to Mirebalais, we did not cross to avoid being stuck on the other side of the bridge. "
2 million
people are benefiting from re-established road access