|Denis O’Brien at opening of Digicel-sponsored 150th School in Haiti - Lowrie-Chin photo|
Denis O’Brien – Huffington Post – 6 Nov 2014
Last month global CEOs, heads of state, Nobel Prize laureates, heads of foundations and NGOs, and major philanthropists gathered in New York for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting to discuss innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. This year, the main priority of CGI's Haiti Action Network -- a group of CGI members which formed in 2008 to address the pressing issues of housing, access to clean water, education and business development -- is to ensure the detailed monitoring of people's promises and commitments to the CGI to deliver progress and action. Oftentimes it's project management skills that are the missing ingredient in 'giving'. As the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and injured another 300,000 in Port-au-Prince approaches in January, it's especially important that we continue to help Haiti.
With this milestone around the corner, it's important to look back and celebrate the tremendous progress made in recent years, while keeping focus on remaining needs of the country and working to accelerate momentum around these efforts. Perhaps the biggest indicator of progress is spotlighted in a report released this past June by the Haitian Government and the United Nations Development Program. The 2013 Millennium Development Goals Report: Haiti, a New Look, shows how the country has significantly advanced in achieving several targets of the Millennium Development Goals -- eight international development goals established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000 which committed nations to achieve specific goals in terms of poverty, hunger, education, equality, health, sustainability. For instance, Haiti's GDP rose from US$1,548 per capita in 2009 to $1,602 per capita in 2012, with extreme poverty stabilising at 24 per cent in 2012. The country has halved the number of underweight children under age five more than three years ahead of the 2015 deadline. Enrollment rates in primary education nearly doubled (47% in 1993 to nearly 90%), with equal participation of boys and girls. In terms of ongoing relief efforts following the earthquake, 11,000 displaced families have been relocated (more than 1.5 million people were initially without homes).
These numbers show great progress. After all, it's no easy feat not only to rebuild a country and its economy following a natural disaster.. However, there's so much more going on behind these numbers through initiatives in support of Haiti's development. Since the Haiti Action Network was established, private sector partnerships with government and NGOs have raised more than US $430 million for commitments in support for Haiti.
More companies are recognizing the potential the country has as a manufacturing hub given its proximity to the U.S. and its capable workforce. For example, last fall TOMS shoes announced a five-year initiative to invest in manufacturing operations in Haiti. In early 2015, Marriott will open a 175 room hotel in Port-au-Prince. A grant from the USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund a partnership between technology companies and Scotiabank leading to the development of TchoTcho, a mobile wallet and digital banking solution. And,the Caracol Industrial Park in the north of the country is attracting tenants like Sae-A, a Korean garment manufacturer and a major supplier of U.S. retailers.
|L’Ecole Nationale de Grande Savane - Lowrie-Chin photo|
On the education front we're spearheading teacher training programs reaching more than 400 teachers and we have just completed our three year CGI commitment of building 150 schools in time for the start of the new school year this past September. Coming out of this year's CGI, we've committed to enriching the school's resources and enhancing children's educations by expanding our teaching programs and implementing libraries and IT labs. Working on the ground with community members and meeting the children and teachers who are directly impacted by these projects is especially meaningful. In all, approximately 50,000 children attend these new schools each day.
While the country has received significant investments from foreign aid and private partners, more still remains to be done to help the Haitian people create self-sufficient communities. For one, Haiti is currently facing the largest cholera epidemic in the world which has killed more than 8,500 people since the outbreak began in October 2010. According to a 2013 United Nations humanitarian office's country report, the main cause for the persistence of cholera in Haiti is the lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities and poor hygienic practices. Today less than two-thirds of the nation's population has access to clean water. Sean Penn's organization, J/P HRO, is working tirelessly to make strides against this horrific disease (as outlined in a recently published editorial in The Wall Street Journal). What's required is international support with the Haitian government to strengthen the country's healthcare system and develop a better sanitation system. The sooner we can work together on both, the sooner unnecessary deaths can be prevented.
The people of Haiti and all dedicated groups who have committed time and resources to the country in recent years should be proud of the progress made. I'm confident that through ongoing collaboration we'll be able to do even more in order to not only save lives but build the foundation for Haiti's sustained development.