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PORT-AU-PRINCE — Four years have passed from the tragic earthquake that killed over 200.000 people and left Haiti in one of the worst crisis of recent times. Although much remains to be done, international aid agency Oxfam acknowledges that there have been positive strides towards reconstruction and development. While recognizing positive efforts on behalf of the Haitian state to take on a leading role, Oxfam highlights the need for the creation of inclusive processes ensuring the participation of Haitian civil society organizations, communities and citizens to actively participate within this process.
Today, fewer Haitians are living in camps: 89% of the displaced population from the 2010 earthquake is no longer living in camps. Yet 172.000 people are still living under tattered tents, with limited access to essential services such as water and sanitation. If the return, resettlement or local integration solutions are not intensified this year, a large number of people without permanent housing solutions risk continued displacement and will remain vulnerable to shocks.
In order to address this challenge the government has designed a housing policy, which includes a coordination mechanism to discuss housing issues with stakeholders. Oxfam urges the government to ensure the participation of all relevant communities and local civil society organizations as well as other state institutions within the established coordination mechanisms.
Participation of citizens and local organizations is key to build effective governance structures through which Haitians can influence policy decisions and processes that affect them. Despite advancements, the number of permanent housing units built is still very low and the availability of housing is not sufficient to meet demand. Investments in neighborhoods need to be increased to provide basic services to the population.
“This 4th commemoration reminds us of the importance of reconstruction efforts, and how these need to follow and comply with norms, regulations and commitments that were set out since the tragic earthquake”, said Oxfam Associate Country Director Yolette Etienne. “We recognize that there have been positive efforts on behalf of the government in producing clear guidelines and regulations regarding reconstruction. These, however, need to be enforced and followed strictly if we wish to witness Haitian men and women exercising their right to a safe and secure home, as well as their right to education, food and life.”
Unfortunately housing is not the only pressing issue facing Haitians. In 2012 half of the suspected cholera cases in the world occurred in Haiti. Between January and December 2013, 57,377 suspected cases of cholera and 582 deaths were recorded, and another 45,000 new cases are expected for 2014.
Despite these worrying statistics, cholera cases have been reduced by over 50% since the outbreak in 2010. This improvement is a result of the persistent work of organizations such as Oxfam that have worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, DINEPA (the government water authority), local civil society organizations, and communities to set up technical structures, processes and in some cases, infrastructure to reduce the spread of the disease. Today, Haitians have taken on, improved, lead and owned these same structures and processes. Oxfam considers national ownership crucial to the formulation of sustainable solutions to the many development challenges Haiti faces today. International actors must continue to support these national efforts, complementing them and filling any gaps that might arise.
Another area of advancement is in disaster risk reduction. Over the past year, the national Civil Protection Directorate (DPC), has made considerable progress in reinforcing its capacities at all levels, including: coordination, information management, evacuation management and inclusion of internal displacement in preparedness and response planning. Oxfam has collaborated extensively with DPC, working together at national, departmental and community levels, improving disaster preparedness and reducing risks.
These concerted efforts between national and international actors are central not only for an effective reconstruction of the country, but also to build inclusive governance structures at all levels that respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Oxfam, however, urges the Haitian State to continue to develop effective decentralized governance structures to create an enabling environment and a conducive political momentum for youth and women, engaging them with national institutions and processes.
“What we need today for Haiti to stand on its own two feet is a collective effort between national and international actors, where each party brings their experience, expertise and skills to the table, under the leadership of the Haitian state,” Etienne concluded.
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