Haitians on the pitch for recovery

Josiane Vesna, a resident of Bel Air, Haiti, stands on the street in her neighborhood, broom in hand, working to clear away debris from the earthquake.
Josiane Vesna of Bel Air, Haiti, clearing debris from her neighborhood. (Photo: UNDP)

Josiane Vesna is a resident of Bel Air, one of the most violent, poor, and garbage-filled zones in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Following the earthquake that devastated the country one year ago, Josiane, along with nearly 1000 other Haitians, was hired to rebuild six neighbourhoods, including her own.

“After the earthquake I was helpless: I lost my belongings and had no means to survive,” said Josiane Vesna, 36-year-old mother of two. “But getting back to work and receiving payment helped me care for my children and pay my rent.”

Highlight Title

  • Over 240,000 workers in Haiti—40 percent of them women—have been temporarily employed by "cash for work" programmes.
  • The amount of recovery-preventing debris still littering the streets in Haiti could fill 8,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • The earthquake resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 people, and caused an estimated US$7.8 billion in damages and losses.

The earthquake, which struck Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions on 12 January, resulted in the deaths of more than 220,000 people and directly affected the lives of 1.5 million.

For Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the loss and damage caused by the earthquake was catastrophic. 

Garbage has no feet – preventing future disasters

In the wake of the earthquake, cash-for-work recovery efforts have helped to employ many Bel Air residents, hiring them to clear the streets and waterways of waste and debris. As a result, more than 1,700 cubic metres (the length of an entire football field) of garbage has been removed from six neighborhoods in Bel Air.

Domeck Prockline, a 40-year-old mother of two who lost her father, her brother and her house due to the earthquake, is working with a project entitled Fatra pa gen pye (‘Garbage has no feet’, in English).

“This project allows me take care of myself and my children,” said Prockline, who still resides in a tent. “But it also makes me feel proud that I am helping my community build a better future in a clean environment. By removing the garbage and debris we are preventing the spread of disease and hopefully averting more disasters.”

Helping Haiti recover

Programmes like these are helping Haitians earn a living and provide basic needs for their families. They also inject urgently needed cash in the economy to speed up the resumption of small businesses and trade.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—partnering with other UN agencies, local authorities and civil society organizations—has been working with affected communities across Haiti to rebuild residents' livelihoods.

From February to November 2010, some 230 such projects have been putting communities at the center of the recovery process, temporarily employing residents and paying them with cash and sometimes food. So far, over 240,000 workers—40 percent of them women—have been temporarily employed.

But difficult times are not yet over and much work remains to be done to help people get back on their feet. Reconstructing the poverty-stricken country, which has been repeatedly devastated by natural disasters, is demanding and will require time.

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