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Rebuilding Haiti

Haiti’s Plan Includes New Ports, Highways

April 29, 2010

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By Tom Sawyer
This article originally appeared on Engineering News-Record.

Engineering News-Record’s Senior Editor Tom Sawyer, and Jenna McKnight, deputy news director for McGraw-Hill Construction, spent a week in Haiti in mid-April staying with a local family and traveling throughout the Port-au-Prince area to meet with Haitian refugees and others already engaged in the start of reconstruction, as well as with representatives of foreign aid organizations and U.S. officials. One long-sought document that came to hand during the visit is the Haitian government’s Action Plan for National Recovery and Development, described below.

John Carl Warnecke, right, with John F.Kennedy, 1963
Photo © Tom Sawyer
Some of the hundreds of spontaneous tent cities to which 1.3 million fled are at a high risk of flooding.
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Navy Capt. Jim Wink said, “Right now they have the attention of the world.” Wink, chief engineer for Joint Task Force (JTF) Haiti, spoke to ENR in his command tent beside the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. “Donors have pledges of $9.8 billion [USD], but they are going to need to have meaningful projects, with some level of confidence they are going to be executed responsibly before they will put that money up. But if properly applied, it could make things a lot better here,” he said.

Wink has been on the ground since Jan. 29 and was preparing to rotate out of the country on April 19 as the JTFHaiti mission wound down. He had been initially in charge of setting up camps for the 8,000 troops that flowed in for emergency support in the days immediately after Jan. 12’s magnitude -7.0 earthquake mauled the country.

Later JTF missions included some direct support for reducing risk to refugees living in spontaneous tent camps and scoping a debris-removal plan for Port-au-Prince. Wink says 25 million cu yd will need to be dealt with. “It might take about three years,” he says. There are major challenges with the national highway system, ports, airports, institutions and residential structures, but the bottom line, he says, is there is money to fund it and a lot of work to do. Asked what he would tell companies in the private sector of construction, he said, “I think there is lots of money to be made.”

The Haitian Action Plan

The government of Haiti has developed a plan document for post-earthquake national recovery and development. The document explains the government’s intentions to countries that have responded to its appeals with pledges of $5.3 billion—out of a total of $9.8 billion in long-term commitments—over the next 18 months to begin Haiti’s long-term recovery.

The Jan. 12 magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck the capital, Port-au-Prince—which is the country’s most populated area and economic and administrative center—as well as the towns of Léogâne, Jacmel and Petit-Goâve. The damage and losses are estimated at $7.9 billion USD.

About 1.5 million people—15% of the population—were directly affected. More than 300,000 died and as many were injured. About 1.3 million people are living in temporary shelters in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, while more than 600,000 have left the area and are sheltering elsewhere in the country. Existing problems providing food and basic services in outlying areas have been exacerbated.

The Action Plan for National Recovery and Development recognizes short-, medium- and long-term needs and proposes to set up a Temporary Committee for Rebuilding Haiti, which will eventually become the Agency for the Development of Haiti. It also sets up a Multiple Donor Fiduciary Fund, which will allow for a “coordinated and coherent approach” to the formulation of programs and projects as well as their financing and execution.

The most immediate need, however, is to provide safe shelter for people now homeless. Intense seasonal rains are expected in early May, and the hurricane season begins on June 1. Both pose considerable risk to life and health for the 1.3 million people now living under tarps, in makeshift tents and even in palm-frond huts.

The plan tries to combine the need for immediate action with the groundwork for long-term recovery. It says the emergency period must be used to improve accommodation for the homeless, reopen schools, universities and vocational training centers, and brace for hurricanes. The government hopes to use donor support to create large numbers of high-intensity jobs by guaranteeing stability in the financial sector and access to credit for small and medium-size enterprises while continuing to reorganize state structures.

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