UN development chief hails progress in Haiti two years after the quake

23 Mar 2012

Port-au-Prince —In her second visit to Haiti after the devastating January 2010 earthquake United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said she was impressed by the visible progress seen in the capital Port-au-Prince two years after the devastating earthquake that rocked the country killing 200,000 people.

“I saw a huge difference from the desolation I saw four days after the earthquake: The streets of Port-au-Prince are alive again,” Helen Clark said. “I feel very confident in the capacity of the Haitian people to rebuild their own country.”

More than 60 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 UNDP.

Over 80,000 buildings in the capital city Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas collapsed after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti on 12 January 2010 leaving a mass of concrete, steel and other debris, equivalent to 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

UNDP helped the Government develop a National Strategy for Debris Management and created a Debris Stock Exchange to coordinate the reuse of rubble to rebuild buildings houses and infrastructure.   For this year a total of 25,000 cubic metres have been allocated to several projects and organizations through the Debris Stock Exchange.

“Rubble removal has been very impressive,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Coordinator Nigel Fisher said. “More than half the rubble has been removed at a much faster rate than in Aceh, Indonesia, after the tsunami and in lower Manhattan after 9/11.”

While meeting with government officials, Helen Clark stressed the need to continue UNDP’s long-term partnership with the government to beef up civil protection and reduce risks of future disasters, while continuing to enhance Haitian institutions’ capacity to deliver quality services to the population.

The UNDP Administrator also met with a group of Haitian women leaders from the private sector, government and civil society. The women ranged from agribusiness leaders in the fruit exporting business and the minister of tourism to powerful head of national non-governmental organizations advocating for women’s issues.

Even though women head more than 40 percent of Haitian households, they hold only four percent of seats in parliament and almost 60 percent of women cannot read or write.

Haiti also has the highest fertility rate in the region: 4.8 per woman (between the ages of 15 and 49), and the highest maternal mortality rate in Latin America and the Caribbean: 670 deaths for every 100 thousand born.

“With more than half of the Haitian population being women and with over 50 percent of the Haitian population being below the age of 25, it is time to transform this potential into real opportunities,” said Maryse Penette-Kedar who is a senior consultant to Royal Caribbean and president of its Haiti affiliate.

Helen Clark also visited Place St. Pierre, one of the six priority internally displaced camps whose residents have all been re-housed through the Government of Haiti’s flagship “16/6 Project”, which seeks to  revamp quake-damaged communities to boost the safe return of camp residents.

Today, Helen Clark will inaugurate the Northern Seismic Risk Plan Project in the northern coastal town of Cap Haitien along with Minister of Interior and Local Development Thierry Mayard-Paul, Departmental Delegate Yvon Alteon and Cap Haitien Mayor Wilbreon Bean.

Yesterday, the Administrator took part of the national launch of “Haiti Rebuilds: A Journey of Hope”, a 20-minute ‘road movie’ produced by UNDP and created by Cine Institute—Haiti’s only professional film academy based in the southern coastal town of Jacmel.
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To wrap up her four-day visit, the UNDP Administrator will visit the Community Support Centre for House Self-Repairs, known locally by the French acronym CARMEN. The Government of Haiti-UNDP initiative has been empowering quake-affected communities in Port-au-Prince and the western town of Léogâne to directly take charge of house reparations, with engineering assessments and construction trainings.

Eight thousand families have already registered to take part of the project, benefitting 19,000 people. Five thousand participants have been trained in construction techniques and 3,000 damaged houses have already been evaluated.

More than 2,000 mobile money transfers are planned in the next three months to 1,000 low-income families receiving subsidies totaling US$500 to purchase construction materials such as cement, iron and wood at selected project-certified stores for high-quality assurance at affordable prices.

Contact Information

In Port-au-Prince: Chirine El-Labbane,  chirine.el-labbane@undp.org; +509 3600 7455
In New York: Carolina Azevedo, carolina.azevedo@undp.org; +1 212 906 6127

About Helen Clark

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.

Full biography