Haiti became the world's first black-led republic and the first independent Caribbean state when it ended French colonial control and slavery in the early 19th century. But it’s fight for independence came with a price: high reparations to France, which demanded compensation for former slave owners. The 19th century "independence debt" was not paid off until 1947. Since then, dictators and political instability, poverty and natural disasters have shaken the small tropical island nation in the heart of the Caribbean. This has left its traces on the country’s development. Haiti is now regarded the poorest country of the Americas.
The earthquake in 2010 with its epicentre near the capital Port-au-Prince was the most devastating natural disaster Haiti has ever experienced. The earthquake killed approximately 200,000 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless, and damaged infrastructure and houses. More than a million people were forced to live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. As a result, the country faced the greatest humanitarian crisis in its history.
Today, more than two thirds of the urban population lives in Slums. This comes with unhygienic conditions; 75 per cent of the urban dwellers do not have access to safe water and 66 per cent to adequate sanitation, which may cause diseases such as Cholera and even a high risk of mortality, especially among young children.
Since the disastrous earthquake the country has recovered slowly. For many years urban development has been driven by substantial foreign funds under the umbrella of recovery and reconstruction. On the global level the government of Haiti signed the Kigali declaration ‘Making Slums History: a worldwide challenge for 2020’ in 2013 and engaged on urban issues in the World Urban Forums.
PSUP Phase 1 was implemented in Milot, Cap-Haitien and Les Cayes, while Phase 2 is being implemented in partnership with the Commune des Cayes, the Délégation du départemental du Sud and CIAT (Comité interministériel d’aménagement du territorial). The first time slum data was captured and entered into maps was via the GIS mapping of slums under PSUP. This information was also utilized in the urban structure planning process. As this was done in collaboration with the local municipality and a local university, it built strong capacity on data capture and analysis in these institutions. In addition, a strong partnership with the regional government (Délégation du départemental du Sud) was formed. This resulted in political support for slum upgrading and the hosting of the local UN-Habitat office in the regional government building. PSUP also used its visibility to highlight the issue of public spaces on a citywide level in addition to slum upgrading. This was done through planning workshops, connecting it to the identified issue of slums and coastal protection, and a pilot project on upgrading a public space close to a slum area. Through the development of a Citywide Slum Upgrading and Prevention Strategy in the framework of PSUP Phase 2, the issues of sanitation and drainage as well as housing were identified as key areas for intervention. This was all achieved through PSUP and the partner ministry, as well as other ministries. The three participating urban councils and community members have been trained in participatory processes in decision making, urban assessment, results-based management, gender and youth in the city and the human rights-based approach. They have also been sensitised on planning, basic urban services, housing and land issues which are connected to slums in urban areas.