Haitian people critical to rebuilding process

Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 11 Jan 2011

Providing more opportunities for everyday Haitians to get involved in the earthquake recovery process is critical to the successful rebuilding of the country, says international aid agency Oxfam.

Speaking on the anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed or injured more than half a million people and destroyed 105,000 homes, Oxfam Australia emergencies manager Richard Young said the Haitian government must invest in more projects that give people much-needed jobs and skills.

“Unemployment and food shortages are still two of the main obstacles that Haitians face as they start to rebuild their lives,” Mr Young said.

“Haitian authorities need to take action to help people earn money, such as investing in labour intensive public infrastructure projects for water provision and road building.”

The number of people in formal work has fallen from an already low 21 per cent before the earthquake to only eight per cent today. A third of people are self-employed – half the figure of a year ago.

Cash-for-work programs, such as those run by Oxfam, enable Haitians to earn income while helping to clean up their environment through removing rubble, clearing drains and digging ditches to carry rainwater away from landslide-prone areas.

Other Oxfam initiatives include:

Gabion Houses – Oxfam is supporting a project that uses the earthquake rubble to build new houses engineered to withstand the force of an earthquake or hurricane. The buildings are reinforced with strong wire baskets called gabions that are filled with rubble from demolished houses. This project provides homes and enables people to earn an income as they take part in the reconstruction of their communities;

Basic needs grants – almost 3,000 families have received grants of $175 to help them respond to basic needs and replace lost assets. Initial findings show that 87 per cent have started or restarted small businesses with the combination of food and cash support;

Rebuilding small businesses – the already small pool of skilled construction-related professionals was further reduced after the earthquake. Oxfam has given cash and vouchers for tools to more than 1,400 tradesmen such as plumbers, carpenters and masons;

Food aid – Oxfam has pioneered a food aid program that supports local farmers and producers by delivering food kits to 10,000 households made up entirely of local items such as beans, yams and sweet potato.

Over the past 12 months, Oxfam has delivered emergency aid to 1.2 million Haitians, reaching 500,000 people through its earthquake response work and another 700,000 with cholera prevention programs.

A report, Relief to Recovery, released by Oxfam last week identified that the lack of progress on earthquake recovery was due to the combination of Haitian government indecision, narrow donor aid priorities and a lacklustre interim Haiti Recovery Commission, which was established to support the coordination of reconstruction efforts.

For a copy of the Haiti Progress Report 2010 click here, and for a copy of the Relief to Recovery report, click here. To interview Richard Young or Oxfam staff on the ground in Haiti, please contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on +61 3 9289 9415.