Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. On that day, hundreds of thousands of Haitians lost their lives and were injured while millions became homeless when the 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Two years later, they are still struggling to rebuild their country and get back to normal, everyday life.
The international community, including the UN, has been integral in the recovery, relief and rebuilding process that still continues today. Over the last week, many journalists and commentators have looked at the current situation on the ground in Haiti. Our national office, UNA-USA, has added to this dialogue via our online magazine, The InterDependent, which you can read here to learn more.
While Haiti has made great strides in the past two years, an emphasis needs to be put on moving Haitians from camps to permanent residences. According to the International Organization for Migration (IMO) report released in July 2011, nearly 500,000 people are still living in 800 camp sites in earthquake-affected areas of Haiti after two years.
A system has been created by the Haitian government as well as aid groups to offer a $500 voucher to camp occupants that can find permanent residences with access to water and marked safe to live in by the government. The voucher is valued at the average year’s rent in Haiti and will allow tenants to get back on their feet once again. The only stipulation that applies is that camp occupants must destroy their old tent as stated by the IMO.
In an effort to fully recover, Haiti is moving towards its transition phase to concentrate on reconstruction, debris removal, and the creation of jobs. Rebeca Grynspan, the Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) believes that,
“It has been a major challenge since that we know that Haiti still needs a combination of humanitarian support… but slowly the emphasis and allocation of resources is shifting towards recovery and reconstruction.”
With that being said, UNDP is responsible for creating 300,000 temporary jobs thus allowing 60,000 Haitian families the opportunity to rebuild their livelihoods. “This is the largest job creation programme we have in the world… 90 percent of the labour force employed in the execution of UNDP projects is Haitian,” Grynspan said.
The recovery phase will take many years, but numerous results have already been observed on the ground over the past 12 months: 50 percent of the debris removed, more than 300,000 jobs created, 60 percent of TB patients cured, 400 hectares of land reforested and 2,000 metres of gabion walls erected, according to the UNDP.
See the video below detailing more of the progress made by Haitians supported by UNDP.
While there is so much more work to be done, progress is being made and will continue to be made, with national Haitian institutions, the UN, other international NGOs, and the United States working collectively to develop a plan for a more vibrant Haitian economy. Check out Huffington Post’s top ten successes of Haiti in the past two years to see the continuous efforts that need to be made and share with us the programs/successes/visions you have for the future of Haiti.
While it may not have maintained dominant coverage on the 24-hour news networks, the United Nations’ relief efforts in Haiti remain in full force.
Just over six months after the 7.0 earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation in January 2010, destroying the country’s infrastructure and killing an estimated 230,000 people, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced July 27 that the UN is hoping to reach an additional 500,000 children in the ravaged nation in a second round of emergency immunization.
Among the illnesses being vaccinated against are diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, rubella, and polio. Haiti is considered by UNICEF as one of the nations where children are at the highest risk for contracting of these dangerous diseases.
In addition to providing health care, UNICEF and its partner organizations are providing water to 1.2 million people and food to an estimated 550,000 children and women.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) also recently announced on July 22 that they have assessed more than double their initial target of 100,000 buildings in Haiti for structural damage. With the help of the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the United Nations have been working closely with the Haitian government in the recovery and rebuilding process.
These announcements come on the heels of international football superstar and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lionel Messi’s visit to Haiti, during which the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year visited a homeless camp and attended UNICEF meetings. In addition, the Barcelona player met with troops from his native Argentina serving the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Additionally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), recently launched “A Book for a Child in Haiti,” collecting French-language books in an effort to jumpstart the educational system for “internally displaced persons (IDPs)” in Haiti. The program is also working to forge relationships between Haitian and French schoolchildren.
However, in spite of all the efforts, there is still much work to be done. Over 800,000 Haitians are living in tents with no access to clean water or sanitary conditions. Almost 500,000 buildings have been deemed unlivable and still need to be removed, and education and health facilities have yet to sufficiently recover from the disaster. UNICEF reports that over 1,200,000 children are being exposed to exploitation and abuse amidst the disorder and turmoil.
The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) is spearheading the expansive relief effort, providing food, agricultural support, and both short- and long-term solutions to the island nation. This work is even more critical with hurricane season fast approaching and threatening the already fragile Haitian infrastructure.