Since the January 12, 2010 disastrous earthquake in Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities and communities, help has poured in from countries, institutions, and individual volunteers from around the world. This remarkable manifestation of generous solidarity had to be organized, although at the disappointment of some impatient sufferers who need care, food, water and shelters in a hurry.
Besides the immediate solutions imposed by the critical urgent situations, it is important to consider medium and long range initiatives susceptible to establish a sustainable socio-economic development of the whole country. The decision of some 450,000 individuals who have reportedly move to other cities in the country may have help to lighten the demographic pressure on Port-au-Prince, however are these cities capable to support the demands of these additional inhabitants?
President Claude Preval has established a commission presided by Charles Clermont “to direct NFIs (Non Food Items) gifts” that arrived in Haiti by air or from the Dominican Republic to provide the stricken population more tents or eventually more canvas sheets or tarpaulins which are less expensive than the tents. We are not informed, however where these shelters are or will be distributed. The cities in which a portion of the Port-au-Prince population have voluntary moved are in need some also.
The topic of decentralization is in honor. Some are talking about reducing the Port-au-Prince’s population by 50%. They are considering also the restoration of administrative and schools buildings, health centers and other public facilities. However, while recognizing that the secondary cities are also crowded, they want to have the same kind of intervention there, without any consideration for indispensible infrastructure, canalization, drinking water, electricity.
Distressed people have moved to areas where they hoped to find a minimum of decent facilities for living. In addition to the six cities where people have moved and where some 100,000 are without shelters, the Haitian government should investigate other areas, urban and communal, to propose for ground up development to Haiti’s benefactors and determine with them the type of agricultural and industrial investments that can be made in these areas to provide jobs to many and work to those who must participate in the planning and operation of enterprises that can be beneficial for the whole country.
The Secretary General of the United Nations may have taking these thoughts into consideration when he appointed Bill Clinton coordinator of all help to Haiti. This additional assignment to Mr. Clinton may give the impression of an over shadowing of the Haitian government, but the responsible officials should take advantage of this secretary general’s decision and present through one channel their vision for not only the rehabilitation of Port-au-Prince, but the rebuilding of the whole country based on a sustainable and ecological program of socio-economic development.
Before the 1915 U.S. occupation there was eleven economic sea-ports in Haiti, namely: Aquin, Cayes, Jérémie, Jacmel, Mirasgoane, Petit-Goave, Port-au-Prince, St Marc, Gonaives, Port-de-Paix, Cap-Haitian. They may not be today as useful as they were then. There might be others that may be more appropriate, but it might be interesting to recall how useful they were for both import and particularly export that may reveal the type of crops were produced in their areas then.
History is useful when we take time to learn from it. Port-au- Prince was destroyed three times before, Haitians should recognize this time that a capital must be located in a more secured area. The master plan for the rebuilding of Haiti must center around the planning of a new modern capital and a productive socio-economic decentralization.