Haiti: US ramps up 'cash for work' to create jobs, help recovery
The United States and the United Nations are paying for thousands of new jobs to speed earthquake cleanup, put cash in people's pockets, and help the private sector recover.
Howard LaFranchi / The Christian Science Monitor
While relief efforts involving food, water, and health services continue in Haiti, the United States is also ramping up support for ‚Äúcash for work‚ÄĚ programs designed to get Haitians involved in earthquake clean-up, put cash in pockets, and help get Haiti‚Äôs private sector moving again.
The rapidly expanding jobs programs, primarily in the capital of Port-au-Prince so far, are ‚Äúvery important for both creating space to build latrines and also creating sites where people can settle in a more effective and sustainable way,‚ÄĚ says Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID, the US government‚Äôs principal relief and development agency. More long-term, he adds, the jobs will assist in ‚Äútransitioning back to the private sector.‚ÄĚ
So far the US, working with the Haitian government, has created 5,600 jobs. But that number grows to more than 50,000 when the efforts of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and several private relief organizations are added in.
Paying jobs boost local markets
The number of jobs created through such programs is expected to top 100,000 by the end of the month. The ‚Äúcash for work‚ÄĚ programs are one of the best ways to feed families over the course of a natural-disaster relief effort, assistance experts say, because the programs put decision-making back with families and reactivates local markets.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve learned from experience that people prefer money to goods or food,‚ÄĚ says Alexandros Yiannopoulos, a food security expert with Oxfam. ‚ÄúThat way they can buy what they need, and who better to decide that than the people themselves?‚ÄĚ
USAID‚Äôs Dr. Shah discussed the ‚Äúcash for work‚ÄĚ programs at a State Department briefing Tuesday afternoon where many questions focused on the 10 Americans being held in Haiti for trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic without proper documentation.
American missionaries face charges
The Americans, who were affiliated with an Idaho Baptist church, were to appear before a Haitian judge. Haitian government officials have accused the arrested Americans of child-trafficking. The Americans claim they were trying to take Haitian orphans to better living conditions, but Haitian officials say at least some of the children are not orphans.
Cheryl Mills, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‚Äôs special counselor on Haiti, said at the briefing that she expects the ‚Äúvery good relations with the Haitian government‚ÄĚ on the issue of adoptions to continue, in part because the US government has been clear that it only condones the exit from Haiti of children who were ‚Äúalready in the pipeline‚ÄĚ and were approved by both governments for adoption before the earthquake.
About 100 Haitian orphans currently fall into that category and ‚Äúshould be united with their American families,‚ÄĚ she said. Other Haitian children ‚Äúshould not be removed at this time,‚ÄĚ she added.
Jobs program expected to expand rapidly
On the jobs programs in Haiti, Shah said he expects them to expand considerably over the course of February.
UNDP officials in Haiti say they hope to see jobs created for 100,000 Haitians in the coming weeks. Slowing job creation was a lack of the materials workers need to do their jobs, including gloves, brooms, shovels, and wheelbarrows, says UNDP‚Äôs cash-for work program manager in Haiti, Abdullah Al-Laham.
An added advantage of such work programs, however, is that at their conclusion ‚Äúall this material [the workers use to do their jobs] will be given to the poor and vulnerable to help sustain their livelihoods,‚ÄĚ Mr. Al-Laham adds. Under the UNDP program, workers are paid $4.50 for a six-hour day, or the equivalent of Haiti‚Äôs minimum wage.
In the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Delmas, a team of rubble collectors in bright yellow USAID t-shirts was busy shoveling streetside rubble into wheelbarrows so that traffic could move more easily.
‚ÄúThese young men are doing a little every day to help get our city going again after this terrible catastrophe,‚ÄĚ said Carlo Lomynky, who was managing a group of 12 workers on a recent afternoon. ‚ÄúAt the same time most of us lost everything, so this puts a little cash into their pockets and helps them get back on their feet.‚ÄĚ
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