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Haiti Launches Plan to Reduce Seismic Risk in Northern Portion of Country

Above: Workers clear rubble in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2010 (UN Photo/Marco Dormino)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Haiti has launched a project to reduce seismic risk in the northern portion of the country.

Haitian Interior Minister Thierry Mayard-Paul and UNDP Chief Helen Clark hosted a ceremony to officially launch the programme Friday in Cap-Haitien, reportedly the first of its kind in a developing country.

“This project is a historical landmark and this is to the credit of the Haitian government, which decided to engage a proactive strategy of risk reduction in order to avoid a similar tragedy to that which struck Port-au-Prince and its region on Jan.12, 2010,” Clark said.

The plan is a joint venture between Haiti’s National System for Disaster Risk Reduction, under the Ministry of Interior.

It includes the establishment of seismic zoning, improved construction practices and training programmes for builders and engineers.

“This project is a historical landmark and this is to the credit of the Haitian government,” she said.

Haiti and the UNDP are already working on seismic risk reduction in the Port-au-Prince region.

Mayard-Paul called the plan a “proactive strategy for risk reduction,” as part of the country’s wider decentralization plan.

Northern Haiti has a high level of earthquake risk, according to experts. But it is also the scene of what the government hopes can be a major shift from Port-au-Prince to the country’s outer regions.

President Michel Martelly has spent recent weeks touring these areas, aiming to move power away from the capital and toward local municipalities and communes.

Last week, he launched the Katye Pam Poze programme, which seeks decentralization through community engagement, particularly in the mobilization of local governments for disaster risk prevention.

“Our country and our people are vulnerable,” Mayard-Paul said. “We will be looking to the seismic risk reduction programme here in the north in order to learn lessons we can integrate into wider programmes for the government of Haiti and our partner organizations.”

“We are hoping that this programme will become a model for reducing seismic risk in other parts of the country,” he said.

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