Haiti: UN tyre recycling project targets soil erosion, unemployment and crime

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As part of its multifaceted efforts to bring stability and development to Haiti, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country has married crime-fighting with environmental protection in a pilot project recycling used tyres to bring jobs to unemployed youth.

For the past two weeks, a couple of dozen youths from Cité Soleil, one of the poorest quarters of Port-au-Prince, the capital, have been turning the tyres into terracing to prevent further erosion from the denuded hillsides of Morne à Cabri, 20 kilometres away, under the sponsorship of the Community Violence Reduction section (RVC) of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

"This project aims, on the one hand, to help protect the environment by teaching young people from a neighbourhood at risk to use recycled materials," MINUSTAH said. "On the other hand, it seeks to promote the social reintegration of young people by offering them short-term employment."

Jean David, a 20-year-old resident of the impoverished Warf Jérémie neighbourhood, said the project kept him away from the lure of banditry and other illicit activities which have enticed a number of his fellow residents.

The tyre recycling project is part of a larger programme employing 200 young people to rehabilitate the slopes of Morne à Cabri with rocks, attaining a four-fold goal of town drainage, flood protection, soil conservation and job creation.

"As there are not enough rocks at the site itself, we decided to use the tyres," RCV monitoring and evaluation chief Stéphanie Ziebell said.

The tyres are cut and prepared before being trucked to Morne à Cabri by MINUSTAH peacekeepers. There they are placed in a series of terraces and filled with sand from a nearby quarry.

The used tyres are just one of many non-traditional peacekeeping activities supported by the UN. In December the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), together with the Haitian Ministry of Public Works and other UN agencies and with funding from the World Bank, transformed a cracked, flood-prone and sewage-infested stretch of road in a quarter of Port-au-Prince into a resurfaced, smooth and clean highway for cars and pedestrians.

And at Christmas, MINUSTAH peacekeepers played the role of Santa Claus, bringing gifts, warm meals and a little cheer to the least privileged children in orphanages and schools.

MINUSTAH was set up in 2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Currently it has more than 9,000 military and police personnel and nearly 2,000 civilian staff.