Haiti: 3 months after Hurricane Matthew, 7 years after the earthquake

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The road to recovery is a long one. UNDP provides conditions for long-term recovery, resilience and sustainable development. © Photo: UNDP Haiti

by Yvonne Helle, Country Director, UNDP Haiti

Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 4 storm to landfall in Haiti in 52 years, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the 2010 earthquake. At least 546 people died and the lives of 2.2 million people were affected.

Of course, key infrastructure was damaged: in some areas, 90 per cent of homes were destroyed. Farming, fishing and small scale commercial activities were severely hit, depriving people of livelihoods and income. For instance, the Grand’Anse and Sud departments have seen 70 and 100 per cent of crops being destroyed.

Three months after the disaster, people in the most affected areas still need immediate help to meet their basic needs, and, not less urgently, access to new opportunities to make a sustainable living. While the humanitarian response is still gathering pace, rehabilitation and recovery must also start immediately to reduce dependence on relief.

Drawing on the lessons of the 2010 earthquake, our post-Matthew response was designed and is being implemented in close partnership with national and local authorities. Here is a snapshot of what UNDP has done since October:

1. Our disaster risk reduction efforts - which started prior to the Hurricane - demonstrated their usefulness. For example, in Dame Marie (one of the most severely affected municipalities), not a single life was lost during the passage of Matthew. Gilbert Jean, the mayor of Dame Marie, actually told us that our disaster preparedness trainings conducted with the Haitian government contributed significantly to saving lives. At UNDP, we will continue to address and prioritize the very conditions that make poor people vulnerable to climate and disaster risks. Over the past three months, we used the multi-hazard risks maps we developed in the department of Grand’Anse to support the local government to plan reconstruction during the recovery phase. The maps help to show where it is safe to build and, as important, those areas that should be avoided. We will also continue to train local authorities in building back better, in a safer manner that takes into account environmental considerations.

2. We supported national and local authorities in planning and coordinating the immediate response. Since October, we helped 10 municipalities become functional again, by replacing key damaged equipment (e.g.: computers, electricity supply) and supporting their operational capacity to lead the response. At the national level, we provided technical assistance to the Minister of Planning and External Cooperation to assess the country post-Hurricane needs (PDNA), strengthened the response and communication capacity of the Direction de la Protection Civile and supported the Ministry of Environment.

3. We created 123,680 work days that not only provided people with immediate income but also a sense of dignity. By injecting cash into the local economy, these emergency employment programmes (“cash-for-work) revitalize livelihoods of affected communities and kick-start the broader economic recovery of affected areas. In doing so, we select the most vulnerable households, and in particular give the opportunity to women to participate in the reconstruction of their community. In the municipality of Abricots and together with UN-Women, we set up a cash-for-work management committee only composed of women to monitor the projects and ensure local accountability.

4. These short-term jobs do not merely aim to provide a living to affected people. They aim to restart productive activities in municipalities that has been destroyed by the Hurricane. Removing mountains of debris such as fallen trees, rocks or waste is an utmost priority for public safety and health. Rehabilitating community infrastructures is also critical to resume a normal life and ensure food security. As of December:
- 19 200 meters of irrigation canal were cleaned, allowing communities to plant in time for the winter season;
- 3 600 meters of roads at critical junctions were cleaned, opening access to 127km of secondary roads and facilitating access to markets;
- 40 800 m3 of debris and waste were collected, helping to prevent the spread of water-borne disease

5. We also helped ensure that the humanitarian response not only focuses on lifesaving needs (e.g. directly providing clean water, food and shelter) but also contributes to longer-term objectives and more resilient communities. In the past three months, we worked with four hard-hit local authorities to elaborate municipal recovery plans that lay the best possible ground for long-term development work while taking into account existing vulnerabilities, beyond the immediate emergency.

The road to recovery is a long one. That’s why we developed a three-year Post-Matthew Recovery Programme which aims to create the conditions for long-term recovery, resilience and sustainable development in Haiti, while meeting the meeting the immediate needs for affected regions. In the aftermath of the disaster, UNDP has allocated $1m of its own resources to kick-start the process and was also supported by generous donors and the Haitian government. Yet, more support is needed to scale up our existing projects and help Haitians rebuild Haiti. Now, more than ever, we need your help to sustain these invaluable efforts.

About the author
Yvonne Helle is the United Nations Development Programme Country Director in Haiti.