Haiti and Its Economy Being Rebuilt by 'Cash for Work' Program

by Rajshri on  May 2, 2010 at 10:10 AM Lifestyle News
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Dozens of Haitians work to reinforce river beds in simple conditions armed with rudimentary tools and often barefoot.

The work is hard, but it brings in much-needed money and prepares the community for the rainy season.
 Haiti and Its Economy Being Rebuilt by 'Cash for Work' Program
Haiti and Its Economy Being Rebuilt by 'Cash for Work' Program

Along a stretch of riverbank almost a kilometer long, 10 teams of 20 people perform the same exhausting actions, turning over soil and extracting rocks under the boiling sun as they stand in muddy water.

But they work with smiles, and some even sing, appearing happy to be among the thousands in quake-devastated Haiti participating in "Cash for Work" programs.

The men and women are residents of Leogane, a town some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, much of which was destroyed by the January 12 earthquake.

For them, the labor presents a double opportunity: the chance to earn four or five dollars a day, while working to ensure that the large canal that often floods their homes -- and this year threatens their tent refuges -- will not overflow.

Gabriel Sanon has abandoned the land he farms to participate in the program for 20 days. In the three weeks employed in the program under the auspices of Acted, a French non-governmental organization (NGO), he stands to earn as much as he ordinarily would in three months.

"When the rain falls, there are a lot of problems," the 25-year-old father adds.

For Franky Jean Simon, 28, a bricklayer and goat farmer, the incentive is only partly financial.

"It's not really the money that interests us, it is more the irrigation and the problems" that the floods cause, he said.

In the wake of January's massive quake, which killed between 250,000 and 300,000 people and shattered Haiti's economy, the United Nations and various NGOs set up "Cash for Work" programs across the country.

The goal is to rebuild and improve the country's infrastructure while also injecting money into the devastated local economy.

Haitians receive between 180 and 240 Haitian gourdes a day -- about 4.5 to six dollars -- depending on their abilities, to clear tonnes of rubble still strewn throughout the streets of destroyed towns, dispose of garbage, rebuild roads, or reinforce riverbanks to prevent flooding.

"We are trying to have shifts of 20 days each so that it won't just be the same group of people that benefits from the aid," said Cyril Seguy, an Acted official in Leogane.

But organizing who can and cannot participate has not proven easy, and a number of children have tried to slip onto work sites to join the program.

"Why is he not at school?" says Martin Norand, an official overseeing the NGO's projects in the country, as he spots a youngster wielding a pickaxe at work. "The supervisor must be told again that only adults are allowed!"

Along with disbursing close to a million dollars into Leogane's economy, Acted hopes to see many kilometers of the riverbed cleaned up by the end of the program.

Another six million dollars is being disbursed by the United Nations to fund the clean-up of drainage canals in Port-au-Prince through 40 projects that will employ close to 25,000 people.

"This is preventative work that we're doing, now that we are at the beginning of the rainy season, to avoid flooding and land slides," Edmond Mulet, the head of the UN mission here, said last week.

With close to 70 percent of Leogane in a flood-prone zone with extremely high groundwater, local lawmaker Jimis Beneche has nothing but praise for the project.

"Normally this work should be done by the city council," he acknowledged, but "with the weakness of the state right now," it would be unlikely to proceed without outside help.

Source: AFP

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