Haiti recovery begins with population's direct involvement

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) employed nearly 400 Haitians in cash-for-work activities to jump start the local economy and facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance. By the end of the week, this programme will expand to include another 700 people working on rubble removal and the rehabilitation of essential social infrastructure, such as street repairs and electricity.

"Time is of the essence in getting early recovery after a major disaster," said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark upon her return from Haiti. "We need donor support to help get people back to work without delay. This will accelerate early recovery and prepare for the longer term rebuilding when it takes place."

Clark was referring to a UNDP flash appeal that is calling for US$35.6 million for its initiatives to help Haitians recover from the earthquake, part of a nearly US$600 million UN Flash Appeal launched on15 January. As the co-ordinator of the UN early recovery team, UNDP is also working with the Government of Haiti and other partners to assess damages and needs, devise plans for rebuilding, and begin these immediate responses.

"In addition to the cash-for-work initiatives, a big priority for UNDP is to support the rebuilding of the Government's capacity," Clark said. "But the overall task of rebuilding a devastated capital —with a population of this size— is huge. It is neither a short nor a medium term task."

The first phase of the cash-for-work programme will focus on Carrefour-Feuilles, a neighborhood just south of Port-au-Prince. The initiative will soon be rolled out in other earthquake-stricken locations, including Leogane and Jacmel. Once fully operational, the project will employ 220,000 people, indirectly benefitting around 1 million Haitians.

"Haitians should be the main actors in the recovery process," said Eric Overvest, UNDP Country Director in Haiti. "By providing employment, we will certainly help trigger a more normal life where people have an independent income and where they can start buying food and other essential goods."

Perhaps of equal importance, the cash-for-jobs initiative will provide "self-sufficiency and dignity for the people that are affected," Overvest added.

Past UNDP cash-for-work programmes in Haiti have laid the groundwork for this current initiative. After the 2008 hurricanes that killed 800 people and left 165,000 families homeless in Haiti, UNDP worked closely with the Haitian Government on reconstruction efforts, particularly focusing cash-for-work initiatives and watershed rehabilitation.

The cash-for-work programme launched Tuesday builds on UNDP's Briquettes Project, a cash-for-work programme designed to combat climate change and reduce poverty. To speed up the rubble clearing process, UNDP, as a first step, used the resources and staff previously employed by the Briquettes Project. But UNDP is currently in the process of selecting the additional 700 people to be employed by the end of this week.

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