|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Deputy Special Representative of Secretary-General for Haiti
Countering what he described as the “dominant narrative of failure” in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for that country, said that painting a falsely negative picture could drive interest, attention and support away from the recovering country at a critical “turning point”.
Speaking at a headquarters press conference today, Mr. Fisher said it was “a myth” that no reconstruction had taken place in Haiti. He said that the task faced in Haiti was not just that of rebuilding after a major earthquake, but of rebuilding an entire country whose basic social and economic infrastructure had long been broken. Yet, it was important to recognize “the 10 per cent of the glass that was full rather than the 90 per cent that was empty,” he said.
As the second anniversary of the January 2010 earthquake approached, he said it was important to place past and present challenges in perspective. For Haitians, 2010 would long be remembered as a year of multiple crises, which highlighted decades of chronic political instability and lack of opportunity that had left so many Haitians in poverty and economic vulnerability. Haiti was already the poorest country in the southern hemisphere at the time of the quake, with more than half of Haitian children out of school, and up to 70 or 80 per cent of the people with no access to electricity. Prior to the earthquake, only 5 per cent of roads were in decent condition. After the quake, Haiti’s Government had lost thousands of civil servants, and most of its key infrastructure.
Several large-scale recovery projects had been launched, and their impact was becoming visible, he said. On the humanitarian level, the public sector and multilateral and bilateral partners had dispersed $2.5 billion. In 2010, 1.5 million Haitians were sheltered in camps, and many had access to latrines for the first time. Today some 550,000 people were still left in camps - a significant drop that represented real progress. However, that was still a huge caseload.
As for the cholera epidemic, more than 6,700 had succumbed to the illness and almost 500,000 had been infected. However, the case fatality rate had dropped to just over 1 per cent today, and there was now a national response and alert system for cholera in place, which did not exist a year ago.
As for early recovery and development, public donors had pledged $4.6 billion for 2010 and 2011, in addition to about $1 billion in debt forgiveness. About 88 per cent, or $4 billion, had already been disbursed or committed to specific programmes. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) had approved priority projects for a total budget of $2.3 billion, ranging from transport and infrastructure, debris removal, urban development, education, sanitation and others. Further, sufficient investment was already in place to ensure 20,000 new jobs, which was set to be increased to 60,000. Further, the new investment commission was seeking to tackle legal and bureaucratic obstacles that currently made investment in Haiti so difficult.
As for education, he stressed that only half of Haiti’s children had attended school before the earthquake. Already there were more children back in Haitian schools than there had been before the quake, and while just over half of all children were going to primary school nationally, 3/4 of children in camps were enrolled.
Asked about a strategy for assistance in Haiti, he said that a petition claim had been submitted to the United Nations, and the matter was currently “in the legal domain”. It was not for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to make pronouncements on the issue, he added.
Responding to a question about allegations of sexual abuse committed by peacekeepers in Haiti, he said that it was the responsibility of the troop-contributing country, and in the particular case the correspondent referred to, Uruguay had acted “impeccably” in responding quickly, acknowledging responsibility, condemning the act and repatriating the individuals concerned.
Addressing broader questions about insecurity and violence in Haiti, he said that violence continued in camps, especially gender-based violence, although with less frequency than a year ago. There had been an increase in political turbulence, related to the entry of the new Government.
Such ongoing difficulty, along with the debate on the cholera problem, “had not helped MINUSTAH’s image”, he acknowledged. However, despite some disillusionment, 70 per cent of Haitians had expressed the wish for the Mission to remain in Haiti.
* *** *