Beyond Mountains, Haitians See a Brighter Future
January 11, 2013 BY Heraldo Muñoz
PORT-AU-PRINCE — “Beyond the mountains, more mountains,” a well-worn 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.
With support from national and international partners, they are building a more resilient country, in large and small ways often overlooked by outsiders but unmistakable to those with the greatest interest vested in this country—Haitians themselves.
In 2012, two years after the quake, Gallup pollsters reported a record low number of Haitians who described themselves as “suffering” and a record high number who said they were “thriving.” Gallup also found an unprecedented number of Haitians expressing confidence in their national government institutions.
Despite considerable hurricane damage last year, Haiti is moving forward. Government, the private sector, and international organizations are working with families and communities to rebuild the country and revive its economy.
Of the 10 million cubic meters of debris from the earthquake, 80 percent has now been cleared—at a significantly faster pace than occurred in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami and New York in 2001.
One UNDP-managed project has cleared one million cubic meters of debris—and recycled it into paving stones, stairs, corridors, houses, and public spaces. More than 1.1 million displaced people have been moved out of camps and into long-term housing, also with UNDP support.
We have helped to rehabilitate neighborhoods, roads, and houses and to create thousands of jobs in low-income communities afflicted by chronic unemployment. We are also supporting crucial governance initiatives aimed at increasing transparency and strengthening the rule of law—the foundation of a better and more inclusive Haiti, and the sine qua non of a vibrant economy able to attract and retain international trade and investment.
Keeping Haitians and their communities as drivers of the recovery process is essential.
Community members themselves set priorities for rebuilding homes and infrastructure 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 centers that have benefited 30,000 people.
Our results in Haiti are significant and tangible, a direct outcome of the international support that followed the earthquake and remains a critical lifeline. The Government is now building on these achievements and developing a longer-term development roadmap toward a truly inclusive, resilient society.
The remaining challenges are formidable; they demand and deserve our sustained support. But a horizon with fewer and smaller mountains is now in sight.
Heraldo Muñoz serves as UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America & the Caribbean at UNDP headquarters in New York.
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