The World Bank and Haitians Put the Struggling Nation on a More Prosperous and Resilient Path

There is a well-known Haitian proverb, Se lè or nan bezwen, or konn ki moun ki zanmi or. This means that a true friend will always be ready to support you in the most difficult times.

Haitians have suffered terrible misfortunes in recent years and enormous challenges remain, but there are many good reasons for hope – and I am grateful for the recent opportunity to visit Haiti and pledge the continued support of the World Bank to the country’s resilient recovery.

This is the message I conveyed during my recent visit, my first since becoming World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean. During my journey, I have been struck by how much can be accomplished even in the most daunting of circumstances.

The 2021 earthquake is an example. Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake, with a huge humanitarian and economic toll. Since then, the World Bank has been working with the government of Haiti in three key areas to ensure a rapid and targeted response.

First, in two weeks, leveraging imaging and remote techniques, we identified, analyzed and prepared a global rapid damage assessment report highlighting key recovery needs. Additionally, and in collaboration with the United Nations and the European Union, we produced a post-disaster needs assessment which estimated that the earthquake had caused approximately $2 billion in damage and loss, or 11% of the GDP of Haiti in 2019-2020.

Second, we helped Haiti mobilize the resources needed to act. We have mobilized an additional $200 million for the earthquake response and are working with donors and partners to provide a total of $2 billion over the next three years. This contribution puts us on track to provide record funding to Haiti this fiscal year, nearly $500 million in total, far more than originally allocated.

Third, we are now putting all our energy into implementing the recovery effort. This includes ensuring that the necessary funds arrive as quickly as possible and in the right places. Together with the government, we are focusing over the next year on this unique and extremely important program.

We acknowledge past concerns – particularly regarding the 2010 earthquake – that the international community sometimes promises more than it can deliver. We are firmly committed to ensuring that, even in the current difficult circumstances, we find quick and pragmatic solutions to provide assistance to those who need it most, including the most vulnerable and in the most remote areas.

Unfortunately, Haiti’s recovery is being tested by two realities on the ground.

First, the recovery takes place against a backdrop of deteriorating security. Even more than the uncertain political scenario, the restoration of security is of the utmost importance for the World Bank’s program in Haiti to be effective. Close collaboration between our development partners, including the United Nations, the United States and Canada, will be necessary.

Second, the country continues to struggle with the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. As in other Caribbean countries, unemployment, poverty and inequality increased in 2020 and 2021 due to containment and containment measures. To help pull Haiti out of the shadow of the pandemic and reduce the 60% of the Haitian population who are hesitant to get vaccinated, efforts are underway to increase its vaccination rate, the lowest in the region.

Despite these challenges, I remain hopeful for the future of Haiti. The resilience Haitians have shown in the face of chronic fragility and recurring shocks has been inspiring. Haiti has a vibrant civil society, a vibrant young population, and a thriving diaspora that retains strong ties to its home country – remittances remain a key pillar of economic support.

In fact, the response to the 2021 earthquake shows just how far Haiti has come in what has nonetheless been a turbulent decade since the disastrous 2010 earthquake.

I was particularly encouraged to see and learn that the new temporary bridge outside Jérémie was built in record time next to the one damaged in last year’s earthquake. Clearly, much has been learned from previous experiences on how best to deal with the consequences of natural disasters.

Investments in strengthening disaster risk management and civil protection have also had an impact, especially as the disaster struck in deeply complex political circumstances, barely a month after the tragic assassination of the President. Jovenel Moses.

Added to this are a host of other improvements in recent years: the management of health shocks; in education; infrastructure, including roads, water and renewable energy; and local governance, particularly in the area of ​​public finance.

Together, we must continue to work to address recent and longstanding challenges to eradicate poverty and foster prosperity in Haiti.

Even so, with every crisis comes an opportunity. The current situation could be an inflection point. Taken together, the resilience of Haitians, together with progress in the areas mentioned and in other areas – including how the international community can contribute to Haiti’s development – can make an invaluable contribution to putting the country on a new, more prosperous path.

Carlos Felipe Jaramillo is the World Bank’s Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean.