UNDP head calls for “urgent support” for Haiti during visit

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner arrives in Haiti following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the island on 21 August 2021. Photo: UNDP
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed arrive in Haiti following the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the island on 21 August 2021. Photo: OCHA/Matteo Minasi

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner says Haiti needs “urgent support” from the international community to get back on its feet following this month’s double blow of a deadly earthquake and damaging tropical storm.

Mr Steiner and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed made a two-day visit to Haiti to demonstrate United Nations backing for the country’s leaders and people.

“I’m overwhelmed by what I have seen today in Haiti. So much destruction and suffering, yet so much solidarity and hope in the face of such tragedy,” Mr Steiner said.

More than 2,200 people have died from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which struck on 14 August, about 125 kilometres west of the capital Port-au-Prince. Several hundred people are reported missing and 10,000 are injured. Towns have been reduced to rubble and hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties.

The earthquake was followed shortly after by Tropical Storm Grace, which has caused widespread flooding.

An estimated 600,000 people need humanitarian assistance.

This latest earthquake is even more powerful than the 7.0 magnitude one that struck in January 2010. More than 3 million people were affected and about 250,000 people were killed. It was the most devastating natural disaster ever to hit the country, and recovery is ongoing.

Despite poor weather conditions, many people have been sleeping outside due to fears of aftershocks and further building collapses. Photo: UNDP/Moise Pierre

Haiti is not only one of the countries most exposed to natural disasters, poverty has combined with climate change, environmental degradation, and haphazard use of city space to make its population even more vulnerable.

Mr Steiner and Ms Mohammed visited the city of Les Cayes, where most of the damage has occurred. And they were briefed by Haiti’s National Emergency Operations Center, which collects information vital to the recovery effort.

Mr Steiner and Ms Mohammed met civil society and national leaders, including Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Jerry Chandler, Director of Hait’s Civil Protection (Direction Generale de la Protection Civil. Photos: RCO Haiti/Boulet-Groulx, OCHA/Matteo Minasi, RCO Haiti/Jonathan Boulet-Groulx

“Since 2010, one thing has changed in the country; we now have a national coordination. It is the country and the government that can inform the international community on the priorities of the country in this emergence, the priorities in rebuilding and a parameter for all international partners, states and NGOs that have the will to help the country in this moment of crisis,” Mr Steiner said.

Ms Mohammed said national coordination was critical to Haiti’s long-term prosperity.

“That’s why we are here, so the international community sees there is Haitian leadership. There is a partnership with the United Nations, with the US government, with other partners. And what we would like to see is more of this assistance come behind that leadership.”

An estimated 600,000 people need of urgent support and humanitarian assistance. Photo: UNDP/Moise Pierre

Since 2010 UNDP has been working with central and local government, the United Nations, international and local relief organizations, the local private sector, and especially the Haitian people. Eighteen risk prevention plans are in place in the country’s northern regions and 11,000 families have been relocated to safer areas.

This time, in addition to the immediate support for coordination, data collection, and providing rescue and clearing equipment, UNDP is identifying specific needs to develop a collective, comprehensive, and integrated response.

Saving lives is the immediate goal, but at the same time, development is needed to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities many Haitians face in the longer term — and particularly women and female-headed households. All donors must continue to invest in ways that address the root causes of fragility.

Mr Steiner said the entire United Nations system is committed to providing supplies and expertise. “There are many things that are not working. That’s the reality. But this time, together, we’re going to show that we’re in a better position than we were 11 years ago.”

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