RecoveryHaiti implements national plan for disaster risk reduction

Published 28 March 2012

The government of Haiti and the UN Development Program launch Haiti’s National System for Disaster Risk Reduction program; the UN says this is one of the first times that a developing country has taken advance measures to reduce the vulnerability of its people and economy to future earthquakes

Haiti’s minister of the interior, Thierry Mayard-Paul and UN Development Program (UNDP) administrator, Helen Clark, the other day hosted a ceremony in Cap-Haitien, putting into action a Seismic Risk Reduction Plan for Northern Haiti.

The Ministry of the Interior of Haiti says that the plan, a flagship project for UNDP and its national partners, is a joint venture between UNDP and Haiti’s National System for Disaster Risk Reduction, under the Ministry of the Interior. 

According to the UNDP’s Clark, this is one of the first times that a developing country has taken advance measures to reduce the vulnerability of its people and economy to future earthquakes. “This project is a historical landmark and this is to the credit of the Haitian government, which decided to engage a proactive strategy of risk reduction in order to avoid a similar tragedy to that which struck Port-au-Prince and its region on January 12th, 2010,” she said.

Because of its geographical location, Haiti is exposed to floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, landslides, and earthquakes, with particular vulnerability in the northern regions, which sit atop two tectonic plates.  Although scientists have no way of telling when the next earthquake will hit, they agree that the level of threat in Northern Haiti is high. At the same time, the Interior Ministry notes, Northern Haiti is poised to play a key role in the decentralization that is part of the post-12 January 2010 regional and economic rebuilding for the country. In particular, tourism represents a strategic development opportunity thanks to the coastline and landscape. Additionally, recent international investments in the Caracol-Fort Liberte economic development area enhance the region’s future as a manufacturing center, which the government believes is poised to attract factories and tens of thousands new inhabitants.

Clark emphasized that in order to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to develop Northern Haiti into an attractive pole for economic activity; Haiti must first ensure the safety of that investment in the face of natural hazards. “The ‘Seismic Risk Reduction plan for Northern Haiti’ will help local and national authorities face this challenge,” she said.

Stressing that the government plans to complement earthquake risk reduction with similar programs to mitigate risks related to cyclones and flooding, the interior minister said, “We are proactively building capacity of our municipalities and departments for seismic-risk management so all Haiti can be better prepared to manage and respond to emergency situations. Programs such as this are close to my heart, as they involve the safety, welfare and lives of our People.”