Our Perspectives

Haiti: What does it take to transition from humanitarian needs to long-term development?


 Haitians set up impromtu tent cities through the capital after an earthquake measuring 7 plus on the Richter scale rocked Port au Prince in 2010. Photo: Logan Abassi/UN

Haiti has come a long way since the earthquake shook the country five years ago. In spite of the immense challenges, Haiti has made notable progress in health and education, as the Government of Haiti-UNDP Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Report shows. Today the country also has a more risk-informed approach to development, with more retaining walls, safer housing, and simulation exercises for better preparedness.

National efforts, supported by both humanitarian and development assistance, have clearly made an impact. But a much bigger impact is needed.  

Prior to the earthquake, there were several grave development challenges, including poverty (which today stands at 60 percent of the population). Building standards were poor and houses were built in risk prone areas. With such fragility, the consequences of a small earthquake would be dreadful.   But instead, a huge earthquake struck one of the most vulnerable areas—and hit the poorest hardest.

Haiti can prevent future tragedies.  This entails working on priority issues such as education, health, employment, social protection, environment and, importantly, climate change and disaster resilience.

This week, the Government of Haiti, the United Nations and partners launched a Transitional Appeal (TAP) seeking US$401 million for the next two years, focusing on boosting resilience and people’s ability to absorb shocks (financial crisis or natural disasters) without major social and economic setbacks. This is also an opportunity to build up the capacity of national partners to deliver necessary services to all Haitians.

As a transitional tool, this Appeal meets both acute and urgent needs (internal displacement, the cholera epidemic, food insecurity and malnutrition, natural hazards and disasters), while addressing chronic deprivation issues and structural deficiencies. It also seeks to strengthen disaster prevention and the country’s capacity to recover. Moreover, the appeal stresses the importance of improving data collection, a crucial step to build up solid social protection programmes.

The Transitional Appeal needs support from the international community because it is a means to help Haiti meet the remaining humanitarian needs, while taking essential steps for a long-term development. For example, while the Government of Haiti, UNDP and sister UN agencies have helped 1.42 million internally displaced people leave the camps, 80,000 are still living in tents—and over 70 percent of Haitians live in slums. This shows that the root development causes still need to be addressed.

We have an opportunity to boost Haiti’s resilience, a crucial step for the country’s sustainable development, while reducing the impact of future disasters in the lives of millions of Haitians.

Haiti Latin America & the Caribbean Disaster risk management Disaster risk reduction Disaster recovery Climate change Climate change and disaster risk reduction Sustainable development Environment Adaptation

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