Haitians clear half of quake rubble

12 Oct 2011

imageHaitians — employed by UNDP-coordinated initiatives — clear debris that will be recycled or disposed of for post-quake reconstruction. (Photo: UNDP Haiti)

New York/Port-au-Prince — More than 40 percent of the 10 million cubic metres of rubble caused by last year’s Haiti earthquake has been removed in one of the largest-scale clearance operations of its kind by the United Nations and partners, coordinated by the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Homeowners and private enterprises have cleared an additional 10 percent of the debris.

“It’s been a colossal task,” said Jessica Faieta, UNDP Haiti’s Senior Country Director today. “For the past 20 months we’ve been working non-stop with the Government of Haiti, civil society organizations, the international community, and especially with community members, in this epic-scale clean-up.”

Faieta stressed that advances since the 12 January earthquake last year need to be measured against the scale of problems faced in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country where 200,000 lost their lives—including 30 percent of civil servants—and crucial infrastructure was destroyed.

Over 80,000 buildings in the capital city Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas collapsed after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck leaving a mass of concrete, steel and other debris, equivalent to 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Around two million cubic metres of debris had been cleared one year after the quake.

Together with the Haitian government, UNDP coordinates the activities of nearly 50 in-country partners—national and international non-governmental organizations, the private sector and sister UN agencies—to map all debris-related initiatives in affected areas.

“These debris removal initiatives are crucial for the reconstruction of Haiti,” said Nigel Fisher, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator. “We are working towards the rehabilitation of neighbourhoods and improvement of living conditions through access to basic services so Haitians can return home safely.”

The UN is also supporting the government to finalize a National Debris Management Strategy to establish tracking tools, rubble-removal and recycling standards and to prepare governmental and non-governmental partners for future debris-generating natural disasters.

Guided by the national plan, the government is expected to approve additional rubble processing sites throughout the capital. To date, clearance workers have relied on a single processing site two hours away by road from the majority of damaged areas in Port-Au-Prince.

Through additional processing sites, it is estimated that at least 50 percent of the rubble can be crushed and reused to rebuild houses, repair roads and improve neighbourhoods.

With many of the densely populated quake-affected poor communities living on hillsides, some of the biggest challenges have involved transporting heavy machinery or mechanical equipment to the sites, and therefore much of the demolition and debris clearance has been done manually.

UNDP, the UN Programme for Human Settlements, the International Labour Organization and the UN Office of Project Services have trained and hired more than 7,000 Haitians in the fields of manual and mechanical rubble removal, recycling, house repair skills, as well as electric wiring, carpentry and masonry.

The initiatives were approved and funded by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, a board composed of Haitian government officials, former United States President Bill Clinton and other high-level international partners.

“Community involvement is essential. Haitians have to be at the centre of reconstruction—and training and empowerment are crucial to their successful management of the earthquake recovery,” said Faieta.

Contact Information

In NY: Carolina Azevedo, carolina.azevedo@undp.org; +1 212 906 6127

In Port-au-Prince: Chirine El-Labbane,  chirine.el-labbane@undp.org; +509 3600 7455

In Panama: Pablo Basz, Pablo.basz@undp.org; +507305 4864

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