HAITI: BUILDING RESILIENCE IN A NATION DEVASTATED BY NATURAL DISASTERS
The ground began shaking at 4:53 PM on Tuesday, January 12, 2010. That minute changed the landscape of the country and countless lives: 300,000 were killed, another 300,000 were injured, and 1 million Haitians were left homeless. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks left the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere in ruins. Within 72 hours, a four-person team of OTI senior program advisors arrived in Port-au-Prince, launching a relief and recovery program that aimed to improve community stabilization, increase citizen engagement, and enable the government of Haiti to function while laying the groundwork for longer-term development.
Upon arriving in Haiti, the OTI team identified rubble removal as a pre-requisite to further development and organized citizens to remove hundreds of thousands of tons of rubble left in the earthquake's wake. These cash-for-work programs provided urgently needed income to Haitians who had lost their homes and their livelihoods. OTI also mobilized quickly to provide temporary office space so that the government of Haiti could begin to function again, while investing in more permanent rehabilitation of infrastructure. OTI helped the government set up a temporary press center to deliver messages to citizens and the international community about relief and recovery efforts, and later worked to strengthen the communications capacity of government officials and journalists. This access to timely information helped reduce growing frustration and unrest. During the November 2010 elections, the Haiti program worked with the government's provisional electoral council, local partners, and international donors to educate voters, increase voter turnout, support the production of the first-ever televised presidential debates, and promote a transparent and accountable democratic process by training election monitors.
Striving to prepare local goveernments and community-based organizations for longer-term U.S. Government and international economic investment, the program moved to a new phase in July 2011. The program then focused on the development corridors of Port-au-Prince, cap Haitien, and St. Marc. Throughout the lifetime of the program, OTI exhibited hallmark flexibility, implementing more than 950 activities related to economic development, public safety, resettlement of displaced families, community revitalization, public health, governance, and education.
To help the Haitian government lead its nation through crisis and rebuild its economy, OTI's Haiti Recovery Initiative removed 750,000 metric tons of rubble - half of USAID's total and one-third of all rubble removed in Haiti in 2010.