Haiti

Haiti: UN-backed road construction aids impoverished residents

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A cracked, flood-prone and sewage-infested stretch of road in a quarter of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, has been transformed into a resurfaced, smooth and clean highway for cars and pedestrians, improving both the health and image of the area, thanks to a United Nations-backed works programme.

The $900,000, 645-metre project at Martissant 23, part of National Highway 1, carried out by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) together with the Haitian Ministry of Public Works and other UN agencies, and paid for by the World Bank, is bordered by a metre-wide pavement on both sides, allowing passage for both vehicle and pedestrian where both previously feared to tread.

"It was important to remedy this situation to change the face of the quarter and allow its residents to resume a normal life," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative Hédi Annabi said at yesterday's inauguration.

He added that the repairs had a four-fold goal: improved living conditions, job creation, better economic opportunities through improved access, and enhanced security by creating an environment favourable to reducing violence and crime.

"What has been achieved by this road is symbolic," Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said. "It is part of a global vision of reconstruction for the area."

Mr. Annabi noted that with regard to security, the improvements enhanced the operational capabilities of the joint patrols by the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the Haitian police. He reiterated that MINUSTAH would continue to use its military engineering units to respond to urgent needs and create greater stability in the strife-racked country.

The mission has been on the ground in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, since mid-2004 after the then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Currently there are more than 9,000 military and police personnel deployed and nearly 2,000 civilian staff.