On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale.
The earthquake left 220,000 people dead, 310,000 injured, and 2.1 million displaced.
The earthquake destroyed 80 percent of buildings in the city of Léogane, west of Port-au-Prince.
Faced with a disaster of this magnitude, Canada and other donors decided to support a debris management project in Léogane.
The project is led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Léogane City Hall and other partners, such as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) Disaster Response, and International Emergency and Development Aid (IEDA) Relief.
Georges Tadros, Manager, Debris Management Project, UNDP: My name is Georges Tadros. I'm the manager of the debris management project in Léogane. This project was initially funded by the Government of Canada, through CIDA, following the earthquake.
Our initial idea was that, in cooperation with the City Hall, we really wanted to focus on the region's economic recovery. Debris became the means and not the goal. From this perspective, we created jobs with our partners, and provided support in terms of mechanical equipment to clear the city. This made it possible to capitalize the poorest, who then had the chance to start up a small business again, to start living just a little again.
Jean-Louis Guston, Joint Manager, Debris Management Project, Léogane City Hall: With this project's support, with UNDP support, this funding first allowed people to clear their property of debris. It also allowed them to leave makeshift camps and return to their homes.
Second, this funding also made it possible for life to begin again in the city of Léogane and neighbouring areas.
Georges Tadros: Once debris is brought to the Ça Ira landfill and recycling site, it is ground and sorted. Some of the debris will be used to finish the outsides of houses, but most will be used for backfill. Other debris will be used as paving stones. We will seek to resell them to merchants, so they can create jobs and start up businesses in the city.
Jean-Patrick Lafleur Oliguerre, Collectif pour le développement de Ça Ira: This project has been important to us since it was implemented in the Ça Ira neighbourhood.
Today, with UNDP and thanks to funding from Canada, we can benefit from the project.
The project allows people from the Ça Ira neighbourhood to send their children to school and to buy food…
Some people have even been able to save and invest. When the project is completed, the small businesses they created will provide them with a livelihood in the days to come.
Phil Maanulwa, Head of Mission, IEDA Relief: The key thing for us is to ensure that Haitian women and men take responsibility for the project, that they take charge of their own reconstruction.
I'm really encouraged by the fact that Haitians owned the project. They didn't see it as a problem for Canada, or for foreign organizations, or for others, but as their own problem. I think this is encouraging for us. Day by day, we see that we're bringing value added. This is precisely why Canadians should be very proud of this work.
Georges Tadros: I find that our partners, including the City Hall, have ensured good participation by women. I think that, on the average, compared with men, women account for about 55 percent of those taking part in the Léogane debris project.
Phil Maanulwa: The project is having a visible impact. For example, so many houses have been cleaned up. They used to be a hazard. Now they've been made liveable. After debris was cleared away, shelters were built, and other programs could be associated with them.
Rose Perpetua Augustin: I was unemployed when IEDA came to clear my house, and I wasn't registered to work. When I was able to come back here to live, I registered and applied for work to support myself and my daughter. IEDA gave me the opportunity to work for them.
Lots of young people in the neighbourhood are unemployed. IEDA came and gave them jobs. Some started up a business with the money they received. It's really good for me, because I'm raising my daughter on my own. Thanks to this job, she will be able to go to school in September.
Willys Geffrard, Project Manager, CRWRC Disaster Response: There's enormous underemployment here, so it's very important to give people jobs, even for a day, even for a week, even every two weeks, let's say. I also think that the most important thing, it's not to minimize others, but to give people jobs, women too … and to establish strong ties with the community, to make a commitment, if you want to put it that way. That's what makes us proud.
Suzanne Desrosiers: This project is helping people a lot. By working, people earn money. That allows them to take care of their families, send their children to school, buy food or things they need. It helps them.
Georges Tadros: The job isn't finished yet. There's still a lot of work to do. There's still almost 1.5 million cubic metres of debris to clear. The Léogane area and the three communal sections are really vast. Now that almost 75 percent of the city has been cleared, we are going to try and start getting out into the communal sections a bit, and see how we can revitalize the whole region.
Suzanne Desrosiers: When people have nothing to do, they get discouraged. But this work gives them hope. It gives them hope.