4 February 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on ‘Cash-for-Work’ Programme in Haiti

 


With the massive international relief effort continuing to gain traction in Haiti, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was rolling out its “cash-for-work” initiative, aimed at providing temporary work and offering Haitians a chance to play a vital role in rebuilding their earthquake-devastated country, a senior agency official said today.


Speaking at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon, Jordan Ryan, UNDP Assistant Administrator, said that, so far, the initiative, launched last week, had employed some 30,000 people at the Government-approved wage of 180 gourdes ($4.47) for six hours of work.  With a World Food Programme-backed food allowance, a day’s pay amounted to about $5, he said, adding that the overall aim was to put at least 100,000 people to work as quickly as possible.


“We’re eager to scale this up as quickly as possible,” he said, stressing that creating jobs had been identified as one of the top priorities for UNDP’s emergency relief and recovery response to the powerful earthquake that shook Haiti on 12 January, virtually levelling Port-au-Prince, the island nation’s capital, destroying most Government buildings and what little infrastructure had been functioning.


With rubble piled high on the streets and roads blocked by huge amounts of debris, removing an estimated 20 million cubic yards of broken bricks and stone in Port-au-Prince alone would be vital in helping ease humanitarian aid delivery, he pointed out, adding: “Obviously, if the roads [and] public service infrastructure are cleared, people can start going back to work.”  Clearing the streets of rubble, refuse and waste would also improve access to local markets and other businesses, chapels and community washing centres, he stressed.


Mr. Ryan said crushing and sorting reusable material was “a huge priority”, as was ensuring access to water mains and sources of fresh water, and beginning some light construction and rehabilitation work.  “There is clearly much added value to cash-for-work -- it gets Haitians involved in earthquake clean-up, puts some cash in their pockets and gives people a real stake in the recovery effort from the very first days,” he added.  The goal over the next few days was to try and ramp up the coverage, “depending on the generosity of donors”.


He went on to say that the priority would be providing work for women, and the initiative would be supported by a monitoring system, including some cartographic mapping and satellite mechanisms that would help ensure that as much of the affected area as possible was being reached.  The current cash-for-work programme drew on UNDP’s experience in 2008, when it had launched a similar initiative that had put some 100,000 people to work helping with reconstruction after a series of deadly nearly back-to-back hurricanes struck Haiti.


Asked how the Programme was recruiting for the jobs, he said it was working closely with the Haitian Government and a host of experienced non-governmental organizations that would be essential in ramping up the initiative in Port-au-Prince and its environs.  Working with such community-service organizations would keep the project “grounded in the Haitian reality”, he added.


Recalling that the United Nations had issued an emergency appeal for some $36 million for the early recovery effort, he said the world body had only received about $10 million so far, with another $7 million having been pledged.  Meanwhile, the Organization was awaiting receipt of promised funds from the Governments of China, Japan, Norway, Spain, Lichtenstein, Italy and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


“There is still a funding gap of about $18 million for early recovery […] we expect some other donors to come on board and we hope they will because that will allow us to scale up this activity,” he said.  UNDP was particularly pleased that a large number of African countries had also acknowledged their willingness to contribute to the effort, and had recognized the social benefits of getting people back to work as early as possible.


Responding to other questions, he said the cash-for-work initiative was rolling out in other areas around the capital, including Carrefour, Belaire and Martissant.  Farther afield, projects had begun in Petit Goave, Grande Goave and Leogane.  “Since UNDP has a presence in several areas outside Port-au-Prince, the idea is to link [a local agency office] with local communities,” he said, adding that, as funds became available, the agency would continue to expand its effort, especially since an estimated 300,000 people had fled the capital after the quake and were now living elsewhere.


In response to another question, he said that, while the initial phase of the cash-for-work programme entailed short-term employment –- with workers holding a job for about two weeks before it was rotated to another unemployed person -- it was to be hoped that it would spawn longer-term social benefits, including vocational training, which would be crucial when the reconstruction efforts began in earnest.  One of the aims was to grow Haitian expertise by energizing the early recovery and “linking the work to new opportunities to build a more vibrant response”.


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For information media • not an official record