Communities build back better in Haiti

World Habitat Day recognizes everyone’s basic right to adequate shelter, and to mark the occasion, we decided to revisit one of the reconstruction projects that UNOPS has been supporting in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.

In August 2011, UNOPS began supporting a large-scale reconstruction project in the metropolitan area of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, to help rebuild the lives of more than 33,000 families whose neighbourhoods were destroyed in the disaster.

The 16 neighbourhoods/six camps (16/6) project was launched to shut down six of the camps for internally displaced persons and resettle the inhabitants into 16 newly rehabilitated neighbourhoods, with funding from the Haiti Reconstruction Fund.

UNOPS was selected to design and implement low-income housing and infrastructure works in eight of the neighbourhoods, with a budget of over $16 million.

The project was jointly implemented alongside the United Nations Development Programme, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration, and with leadership from the Government of Haiti.

As low income neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince were in the past established with little or no planning and using poor quality construction materials and methods, many were severely affected by the earthquake, which killed over 220,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.

Many residents in these high density neighbourhoods had little choice but to resettle in the camps nearby, including Place St Pierre, Place Boyer, Primature, Canape Vert, Stadium Silvio Cator and Mais Gate, which are now closed.

During the emergency phase immediately after the earthquake, UNOPS conducted more than 400,000 building assessments, repaired more than 800 houses and constructed over 1,500 shelters in various informal neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince.

During the recovery that followed, UNOPS was responsible for repairing and rebuilding damaged houses so that they satisfied risk mitigation standards, as well as improving community infrastructure, such as sanitation and waste management facilities, footpaths and access to drinking water and other utilities.

The 16/6 project created almost 110,000 working days for local people, and UNOPS hired 95 percent of its workforce from the community, including a large number of women.

UNOPS has already repaired more than 1,530 homes and aims to build 750 new houses in some of the most complex areas of the capital.

To combat gang violence, UNOPS made residents feel safer by installing hundreds of solar streetlights and constructing the new houses in accordance with good public space management to help alleviate social problems.

Stepping away from simple construction, UNOPS approach considers resilient housing and infrastructure as a foundation for generating productive, self-sustainable environments and communities.

The new housing features works from local artists, including paintings and mosaics.

Local companies were contracted and more than 150 construction workers trained in collaboration with ILO, which is running Haiti's first official vocational training programme.

With sustainability always a priority, UNOPS trained home-owners in construction techniques to help them continue to maintain their own houses in the future, in line with the local culture. UNOPS also established management committees made up of people living in the rehabilitated neighbourhoods, and donated equipment to these groups to help ensure ongoing maintenance.

The 16/6 project was a joint collaboration between four implementing organizations in a demonstration of the United Nations' objective to 'deliver as one'.

Photos: UNOPS/Claude-André Nadon