Our Perspectives

Five years on, Haiti builds back better


(Photo: UNDP/Haiti)

Five years after the earthquake that devastated the country, Haiti celebrates major development gains while acknowledging that immense challenges still remain. In spite of the political and structural fragility, social and economic progress is evident.

Like many countries, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have galvanized positive action in Haiti. The country has steadily boosted the net enrollment rate in primary education from 47 percent in 1993 to 88 percent in 2011 and achieved equal participation of boys and girls. The number of underweight children under five years old has been halved, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has stabilized, and nearly 70 percent of households now have access to an improved source of water.

Clearly, however, much remains to be done. Six million Haitians (60 percent of the population) still live on less than $2.50 a day. And while women head almost 50 percent of households, they hold only 4 percent of parliamentary seats. Deforestation and the loss of biodiversity are also continuing challenges, and the condition of poor urban slums, which house at least 62 percent of city dwellers, remains worrisome.

Yet, despite these challenges, Haiti’s progress must be commended.

First, this progress takes place in spite of the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed at least 200,000 people, including 30 percent of civil servants, and decimated social infrastructure. Disasters are no friend to sustainable development, and the gains Haiti has made since 2010 are significant given the obstacles faced following the earthquake.

Second, the fact that Haiti is approaching development with a more risk-informed view is reassuring. New disaster simulation exercises have been conducted to enable better emergency response and preparedness; retaining walls and safer housing have been built; and efforts to mainstream disaster risk reduction into all aspects of public and private life are underway.

The end result of these efforts is a significantly more risk-informed and resilient Haiti that, hopefully. Is better able to handle shocks without suffering significant loss of life or development setback.

While the country is now approaching its development with a keener eye to preventing and preparing for disasters, immense challenges remain. If Haiti is to reach post-2015 development objectives by 2030, then new financial multi-year resources must be mobilised and technical support provided. A more robust political system will be critical to lead Haitians in their path towards sustainable development.

We’re in this together. UNDP, with the support from the international community (increasingly from developing countries in the region), partners with the Government to achieve these goals and works to improve Haiti’s institutional capacity. We are lending support to strengthen governance systems and improve the rule of law, especially important in light of recent instability.

In spite of the world’s multiple crisis, the international community needs to continue supporting Haiti in its long term, sustainable recovery, ensuring enhanced resilience to financial, political and environmental shocks. This is crucial if we want to secure the many hard won social and economic gains.

The 12th of January 2015 will mark a painful fifth earthquake anniversary for Haiti. But, while the wounds are still there, the page is turning – we are moving beyond the humanitarian stage and onto a hard but promising path towards long-term sustainable development. It is clear that a transition is well underway.

Haiti Latin America & the Caribbean Disaster risk management Disaster recovery Crisis response Risk governance Jobs and livelihoods

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