The Action Plan
“This is a rendezvous with history that Haiti cannot miss. We must obtain results; we owe it to our children and our children’s children”
- Preface, Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti
Barely a month after the earthquake, the Haitian government released its Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti, a 55-page document outlining priorities for the country’s short and long-term recovery. The main goals included “relaunching economic, governmental, and social activity, reducing Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters, and putting Haiti back on the road to development.”
In this section, we break down the core priorities of the Action Plan, which you can access in full here. Read more about Haiti’s ongoing reconstruction from both a Haitian and NGO perspective in our blog, Haiti Today.
Agriculture & Fishing
Despite the fact that over half of Haiti’s workforce make a living in the agricultural sector, the country is still not able to meet the food needs of its population. Haiti uses 80% of its export earnings to pay for food imports (learn more about this by exploring Haiti’s History). This lack of food security increases the country’s overall vulnerability when disasters strike.
Haiti’s government has a five-pronged plan to bolster the agricultural sector, proposing funding to purchase and distribute affordable fertilizers, seeds, and equipment for farmers, and to dig ponds and irrigation networks for water management on fish farms. The plans also include building rural roads to open up agricultural areas, giving fishers and farmers access to affordable credit, and funding the development of technology and infrastructure to preserve and process meats, fish, fruit and vegetables. The government’s plan is ambitious in the context of the country’s substantial environmental degradation, and grassroots groups such as the Papaye Peasant Movement are pushing for a sustainably-based agricultural plan.
Disaster Risk Management
The government defines disaster risk management as “reducing the deterioration of the environment and increasing the resilience of eco-systems, reducing losses in revenue-producing sectors, reinforcing crisis governance mechanisms, protecting infrastructures, and more generally avoiding deterioration in the population’s living conditions.”
These are ambitious goals for one of the most environmentally-degraded countries on earth. Even before the quake, Haiti’s annual rain and hurricane season presented a huge challenge for the country’s disaster risk planners, and in-country conditions have deteriorated considerably since then. The government’s disaster risk management plans include recruiting a civil safety manager for each municipality to lead the local response in pre-disaster situations, as well as parallel coordinators in each national department.
Haiti faces substantial challenges in rebuilding and reforming its economy. The government’s Action Plan estimated the damage and losses caused by the quake at $7.9 billion USD; an amount that is over 120% of the country’s 2009 GDP. This is the highest damage-to-GDP ratio for a natural disaster on record.
The Action Plan focuses on restoring Haiti’s pre-quake economic structures, including manufacturing industries, free zones, industrial areas and tourism. However, the Plan also recognizes the need to avoid an over-dependence on these areas: “What is needed is to draw the national economy out from its dependence on trade to open it up to sectors that have high added value.” To diversify, the government will encourage the growth of Haiti’s cultural economy and cultural entrepreneurship. It will also support the re-establishment of micro-finance institutions, which were badly damaged by the quake.
Haiti’s employment indicators presented a challenge even before the quake, with 35% of the population unemployed, and 80% of those with jobs, including casual, temporary, and unpaid workers, in the informal sector. Job creation and income generation are at the forefront of the Action Plan, especially the creation of positions in industrial and agricultural sectors.
The government believes that the existing situation offers many opportunities for high-intensity labour. Plans include restoring agricultural production infrastructure, developing watersheds, and creating road maintenance programs, as well as building urban infrastructure, recycling materials from collapsed buildings, and running small-scale community projects. At time of writing, however, large-scale employment initiatives in Haiti have been slow to materialize.
Health Care & Education
Before the quake, access to affordable education and health care was elusive for most Haitians. This fragile baseline, coupled with the earthquake’s destruction of schools and hospitals across the country, makes the government’s “rebuilding” plan closer to ground-up construction.
Short-term goals include improving the quality of and access to primary health care services, and focusing on relatively easy and affordable interventions, such as malnutrition initiatives for children. In the longer term, the government is seeking partnerships with the private sector, and increasing the delivery capacity of private operators and networks. In education, the government’s priority is to re-establish payroll for teachers and get youth back into schools as quickly as possible, even if the buildings are temporary. The country’s long-term objective is “free and universal access to primary education,” with increased attendance driven by subsidized school lunches.
Infrastructure & Shelter
“The destruction of infrastructure is colossal.” Over 300,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the quake, and the majority of educational institutions, hospitals and health centers collapsed; the port, the Presidential Palace, Parliament, law courts, and most ministerial and public administration buildings were also destroyed. Rebuilding the country’s infrastructure is essential to the success of the Action Plan: to move from crisis to recovery, the country needs safe, permanent housing, functional roads, electricity, water and other services. The challenge is substantial.
In Haiti’s capital, 80% of the already-fragile justice sector was impacted by the earthquake. The city’s police officers, courts, prisons, and paperwork were essentially wiped out by the quake, a considerable challenge to a country facing a rash of disputes in civil law and land ownership. The government’s recovery priorities are basic and essential: establishing and maintaining the rule of law, restoring violence prevention services, protecting vulnerable groups, enhancing democratic processes, and strengthening administrative, government and public services.