Communities in Haiti take first steps toward recovery

Communities in Haiti affected by Hurricane Matthew have started clearing fallen trees and rubble this week, with the support of the UN Development Programme, while earning much needed income to get back on track after the disaster.

“Finally I can earn some money to pay the school fees for my three children,” says Yolette Aristil. The 27-year-old mother participates in a UNDP programme to support communities affected by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

The category 4 storm, with winds of up to 230 km/h, made landfall in southwestern Haiti on 4 October. Hundreds of people were killed, and at least 175,000 are in shelters. Cities are flooded, and over 120,000 houses are damaged or destroyed.

On 7 October 2016, Frantz (2nd left) kneels behind his family in a school in Arcahaie that now serves as temporary shelter for families who were relocated by local authorities. Arcahaie is a commune in the Ouest department of Haiti, 50 kilometres from the capital. © UNICEF/Moreno Gonzalez

Hurricane Matthew blew away the roof of Yolette’s house and destroyed her mango trees, adding further hardship for a family that was already struggling to make ends meet before the disaster. Yolette’s husband is currently unemployed, and the couple couldn’t afford to send one of their three children to school.

Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

The strong winds and flood waters submerged farmland and wiped out livestock, which will have a devastating impact on long-term food security. Like Yolette, up to 90 percent of people in some communities saw their livelihoods washed away.

Before communities can rebuild their lives, they must first clear away the rubble and waste left by the storm.

Participants in the UNDP cash-for-work project in Grand Goave learn how to safely remove debris left by Hurricane Matthew. Besides clearing the streets, the project allows residents who have lost their livelihoods to earn an income. © UNDP Haiti / Ruvens Ely Boyer
“With our project to provide short-term employment for the next 40 days, we are supporting local authorities to clean up their villages from fallen trees and rubble from damaged houses, while we also are supporting communities to restore their livelihoods,” UNDP’s head of livelihoods, Rita Sciarra, said at the training for the first batch of 950 participants.
Participants in the cash-for-work project attend a training session. © UNDP Haiti / Ruvens Ely Boyer

In collaboration with local authorities and the NGO Association des Irrigants de Fauché (AIFA), UNDP has started to provide short-term jobs for 1,416 people in Grand Goave to clear, recover and recycle waste. Sixty percent of the programme participants are women, who often face particular difficulties in the wake of a disaster.

“For us women, this work will improve things a lot. We can maybe start a small business,” Yolette says. “If we don’t work, we can’t do anything.”
UNDP launched the cash-for-work project in Grand Goave at the invitation of the mayor. © UNDP Haiti / Ruvens Ely Boyer

Besides clearing the streets of debris, the initiative also injects much needed cash into the local economy and provides the tools communities need to restore their livelihoods. The initiative aims to rebuild livelihoods for up to 4,257 participants over the next 40 days.

The cash-for-work project is part of a larger recovery programme that UNDP will roll out over the coming days. UNDP has already deployed early recovery experts and committed US$500,000 in emergency funding. UNDP also focuses on supporting the coordination of early and long-term recovery efforts through the Civil Protection Directorate, emergency livelihoods, debris management and community infrastructure as well as national recovery planning.

© UNDP Haiti / Ruvens Ely Boyer
“At the request of the mayor of Grand Goave, we developed this initiative, ensuring that the community is taking the recovery process in their own hands and has the means to rebuild their own lives,” UNDP’s Sciarra says.

For Yolette, the end goal is clear: to see her third child enrolled in school. “If I can stay in this job for another two weeks or so, I’ll be able to achieve this goal,” she says.

© UNDP Haiti / Ruvens Ely Boyer

The United Nations is seeking $6.15 million as part of the flash appeal to support early recovery initiatives that aim to rebuild infrastructure and help restore livelihoods. UNDP is also raising funds to support the recovery effort in Haiti. To contribute, please visit

A week after the category 4 four Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, international aid organizations, Haitian governement agencies and residents alike are working to repair the damage in the western town of Jeremie. © Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. These are the four SDGs related to this disaster recovery story.

Text: Silke von Brockhausen (UNDP HQ/Haiti); Photographer: Ruven Ely Boyer (UNDP/Haiti); Picture Editor: Freya Morales (UNDP HQ)