The Mercredi de Réflexion is a recurring meeting organized by the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Haiti office that provides a space to reflect on new ideas and positive developments amid the noise of everyday events. This is what representatives from the Government of Haiti, UNECLAC, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) did during the January 26, 2022 meeting. They reflected on actions that can help boost resilience and disaster response in Haiti, shared their thoughts on the matter and proposed possible solutions. The discussion provided facts, put new ideas on the table and finalized with three key takeaways.
- The severe impact of natural disasters will worsen in Haiti and in the rest of the Caribbean region. According the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index, between 2000 and 2019 Haiti was amongst the three most affected countries by the impacts of extreme weather events worldwide, translating into losses of 0.8 percent of GDP per year. A wide range of extreme natural events—hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, etc.—unfortunately affect Haiti and the region on a recurring basis. These events tend to have severe consequences in the country, as approximately 96% of the Haitian population are in high-risk areas and more than 70% of Haitian households live in vulnerable dwellings. The frequency and severity of these events is also likely to increase with climate change: the Caribbean region is projected to be 17% drier by the end of the century, sea level rise is expected to continue and an increase in ambient temperatures will result in a higher frequency and strength of hydrological events.
- Sovereignty is at the core of disaster preparedness and response efforts. The government lies at the heart of setting and implementing resilience plans, responding during and in the aftermath of the event, leading the reconstruction process and ensuring an adequate execution of funds. To this end, the Government of Haiti has key policies in place and has been investing in updating its response regulation and policy framework. Some examples include the Fond d’Urgence, which has been in place since 1966 to meet financing needs after disasters, and the “National Risk and Disaster Management Plan 2019-2030” or the 2020 “Politique Nationale de Promotion et de Protection Sociale” that highlights the importance of response to natural disasters within the country’s social protection system. Going forward, further investment in capacity building and knowledge will be required, as well as the promotion of innovative financing instruments and better coordination of both private and public sector protection. This will ensure insurance and support measures cover as much of the population and nation as possible.
- Haiti is part of a vast international institutional architecture designed to help respond to disasters. The international architecture for preparedness and response is wide ranging and covers different phases of preparedness and response. These institutions offer different layers of protection for countries and should be thus coordinated to maximize efficiency. For example, CDEMA have response mechanisms available and support governments in setting their governance arrangements, they also have coordination mechanisms for development partners. The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) also provides sovereign insurance, providing much needed liquidity in the aftermath of disasters. Both institutions have supported Haiti in various instances, such as in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake or after hurricane Matthew in 2016.
As we contemplate these issues in response to the crises that are arising, we conclude that institutional strengthening, prioritization and layering will be key in promoting better disaster preparedness and response in Haiti going forward. To promote better resilience and response, significant efforts will be needed to update the institutional and policy framework, but this will have to come hand in hand with further capacity building and further coordination of international support. These mechanisms can provide different layers of support and protection to ensure better resilience and a better response become a reality.