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Haiti: UN Agency Helps Contain Damage

Haiti: UN Agency Helps Contain Damage Wrought By Deadly Hurricane

Initiatives by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Haiti are helping to rein in the damage wrought by Hurricane Gustav, which has claimed nearly two dozen lives so far across the Caribbean region.

The agency credits projects aimed at curbing flooding in some of the poorest neighbourhoods – including Cité Soleil and Martissant – in the capital, Port-au-Prince, with mitigating the effects of the massive storm which made landfall on Monday.

“While there are many areas which experienced serious flooding and, tragically, casualties in particular in the south, the scale of the damage in Port-au-Prince does not seem to be as extensive as we have seen in the past,” said Joel Boutroue, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who has been assessing the destruction resulting from the h῵rricane, which caused major flooding and mudslides.

Thousands of Haitians were evacuated by boat or truck from their homes in the West, South-East and Nippes departments with the help of blue helmets serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti MINUSTAH.

Previously, massive trash piles would block drainage canals, leading to severe flooding. Extensive cleaning projects by the Government and the international community are helping to mitigate that problem.

For its part, UNDP is helping through a scheme to collect garbage in a large slum to be recycled into energy to cook food.

Haiti, already burdened with huge social, economic and environmental challenges, is vulnerable to tropical storms – which can impede development efforts – during the Atlantic hurricane season, which stretches from June until November. Gustav has fluctuated in strength from a tropical storm to a hurricane as it has crossed the Caribbean.

Over 3,000 Haitians died and a further 300,000 were affected by tropical storm Jeanne in 2004, costing the country $265 million, or equivalent to 7 per cent of gross national product (GNP).

UNDP Administrator Ad Melkert, who was on a visit to the Caribbean nation, extended his tour to accompany Mr. Boutroue on his assessment mission.

He held talks with President Rene Préval and met with Cabinet ministers, focusing on the role of the international community in tackling poverty and helping Haiti to rebuild from years of stalled development.

“In my view, there are three vital areas for progress in Haiti: employment, energy, and environment,” Mr. Melkert said. “Currently, Haitians have huge unemployment, limited access to energy, and severe environmental degradation.”

He said that the international community, working in tandem with the Government, “should invest in policies and programmes which link these issues in a sustainable way.”

ENDS

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