Heraldo Muñoz is Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP's Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
11 Jan 2013
“Beyond the mountains, more mountains,” one Haitian proverb goes, in a nod to the outsized challenges this half-island in the Caribbean has faced for as long as anyone can remember.
Topping that list is the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, displaced 1.5 million, and racked or razed some 300,000 buildings. The quake took its deadliest aim in Haiti’s hyper-urbanized capital, causing indescribable ruin and destroying roughly 80 percent of the country’s economy.
But Haitians are accustomed to scaling mountains.
Government, private sector, and international organizations are working with families and communities to rebuild the country and revive its economy. Women, who head almost 50 per cent of households, are playing a leading role.
Keeping Haitians and their communities as protagonists of the recovery process is fundamental. Within neighborhoods, community members themselves set priorities for rebuilding homes and infrastructure through community platform meetings, with specific attention to the unique risks facing city-dwellers—strengthening the social and communal bonds that bolster post-crisis resilience by an order of magnitude.
To enable families to take charge of repairing and rebuilding their homes themselves, UNDP has established community support centres to help strengthen damaged homes in the Haitian capital, where 30,000 people have benefitted from it. Over 1,000 families have received US$500 dollar-grants to buy certified quality construction materials to repair their homes, through the project’s innovative money transfer scheme via mobile phones -- the first ever implemented in support of housing repair efforts.
We have also helped train more than 7,000 people in quality reconstruction, strengthened Haiti’s national disaster risk management system, including through a legal framework for the integration of urban risk mitigation, and launched environmental protection programs.
Our results in Haiti are significant and tangible, a direct outcome of the international support that followed the earthquake and that remains a critical lifeline. But these achievements are not enough for the formidable challenges remaining. We must keep the pace and not forget Haiti.
There is a horizon with fewer and smaller mountains in sight.
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