Haitians on the pitch for recovery

13 Dec 2010

Residents of Bel Air clear the streets and waterways of waste and debrisA resident of Bel Air, one of the most violent, poor and garbage-filled zones of Port-au-Prince, Josiane Vesna along with nearly 1000 other Haitians was hired to rebuild six neighbourhoods, including her own, following the earthquake that devastated the country 11 months ago.

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

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

For Haiti, already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere before the earthquake, the value of damage and loss was catastrophic; calculated at approximately $7 billion, it’s more than 120 percent of Haiti’s 2009 gross domestic product.

Garbage has no feet – preventing future disasters

In the wake of the earthquake, cash-for-work recovery efforts have helped to employ many residents of Bel Air 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—partnering with other UN agencies, local authorities and civil society organizations—has been working across Haiti with the affected communities to rebuild livelihoods. From February to November 2010, some 230 such projects have been putting the community at the center of the recovery process paying cash, or cash and food. Over 240,000 workers—40 percent of them women—have been temporarily employed.

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

The January 2010 Match Against Poverty that took place in Lisbon (Portugal), contributed funds to community-based recovery initiatives in Haiti. The Zidane/Ronaldo UNDP team took on Benfica, drawing a crowd of 55,000 spectators and raising more than half a million euro (US$767,000) for the people of Haiti.

This edition of the Match Against Poverty, taking place in Athens, will again transfer part of its proceeds to those most affected by the earthquake. To date, 1 million homeless Haitians (from a peak of 1,5 million in July 2010) are living in tents in over 1,000 settlements, vulnerable to storms and flooding.

The estimated cost of rebuilding Haiti is US$11.5 billion, and organizations working in the country need continuous support.