Summary Resilience Assessment for Port-au-Prince*

Carlos Miranda Levy • 29 October 2013

Port-au-Prince is a particularly vulnerable city, located in the path of frequent hurricanes, with common tropical storms, an active rainy season and a high population density with limited access to drinking water, sanitation services, sewage and health facilities. In addition it is near the edge of the Caribbean plate, on the Gonâve microplate right above the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone.

The massive destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake, the relief efforts that followed and the on-going recovery initiatives have turned Port-au-Prince into a live innovation lab in practically all areas related to resilience, disaster preparedness, relief and recovery. From sustainable community projects to alternative energy initiatives to water treatment, health services and mobile money and banking, Port-au-Prince serves as a pilot and early adoption environment for innovative solutions and out-of-the-box approaches in resilience and human development.

Familiarity with French and English by most professionals and even active community leaders and young stakeholders, combined with a vibrant community of global experts and international organizations make collaboration and active participation in international networks and conversations particularly easy.

In addition, its location in the tropics, by the sea and next to mountains, combined with its crowded population, make the scenario of Port-au-Prince an accurate representation of highly vulnerable ecosystems around the world.

Main Risks and Potential Disasters for Port-au-Prince

  • Earthquakes.
    • Impact infrastructure, mostly housing of low income urban population, which employ unsafe practices when creating their houses as best they can. Tsunamis can have a devastating effects in coastal settlements and economic activities, including the sea port essential for a significant number of imports and agricultural activity which while taking place outside the city is relied upon for the supply of basic diet ingredients of most of the population.
  • Hurricanes.
    • Impact infrastructure, including agricultural and industrial, and housing in  rural areas and coastal areas. Temporarily (and some times long term) disrupt economic activities in the city, generating power blackouts, shortages, affecting land and sea transportation and their facilities (including the sea port).
  • Tropical Storms.
    • Flooding and mud slides, endanger the lives of communities near river basins, and houses, communities and settlements at the base and on the sides of mountains. Affect agricultural capacity and operations. Affect road and communications network, including bridges, intercity highways and roads essential for the supply-chain of goods and services.
  • Epidemic.
    • Over half a million people in Port-au-Prince (conservative figure, population estimates are outdated and not accurate) have limited or no access to drinking water, sewage systems or basic sanitation, making them extremely vulnerable to diseases and the quick spread of diseases. UNICEF estimated that 171,000 people got infected with cholera from Oct. 2010 to Jan. 2011.

Endemic and Social Vulnerability in Port-au-Prince

Sité Solèy (Cité Soleil or Sun City), Port-au-Prince's largest slum has a population of around 250,000 people over an area of 22 square kilometers, for an extremely crowded population density of over 11,000 people per square kilometers (higher than Hong Kong or Bangladesh). Located by the sea, almost at sea level, at the Western end of Port-au-Prince, Sité Solèy is extremely vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tropical storms and epidemics.

In addition, limited sanitation, health and personal safety, combined with housing security, repeatedly affected by cyclic rainy season, epidemics, hurricanes, tropical storms and other natural disasters generate instability in the population and limit the practice of long term local planning. Limited access to economic opportunities place a large segment of the population in extreme peril as they engage day-to-day low-income survival economic activities with limited possibility of savings, investing or aspiring to higher income, revenue and living conditions.

Resilience Priorities

  1. Increasing the awareness and education of population on disaster risks and preparedness.
    • From best practices in planning and behavior before and during disasters to first response and coordination. This includes improving construction practices for safety and disaster (earthquake, floodings, slides, fire) resilience for houses, buildings, roads, community and public spaces.
  2. Formulating a disaster preparedness, response and continuity plan.
    • A comprehensive, distributed, not top-down, multi-sector, multi-stakeholder emergency and disaster plan.
    • This includes an open knowledge base of resources, organizations, venues, contacts, best practices and step by step instructions.
  3. Establishing a communications network that combines multiple technologies and media.
    • With increased penetration, reach and participation through mobile apps in smartphones, sms on feature mobile phones, e-mail, printed material, announcement trucks, web, IVR and call centers.
    • Linked to a shared collaborative database with geolocation open to peer review and comments.
  4. Establishing a supply-chain map and ecosystem with alternatives and mechanisms to operate in case of disasters.
    • Including an open, peer-reviewed, database of local, regional and national providers of goods and services with optional certification.
    • This maintains availability of goods and services and increase the hiring of local providers and individuals, reducing imports and displacement of local capacity after disasters.
  5. Capacity Building, Engagement and Revenue Generation of Displaced People and Settlements. 
    • Enabling disaster survivors as volunteers, paid workers and entrepreneurs who generate much needed income and revenue for their families, communities and ecosystem. Establish a marketplace where they can offer their products and services to national and international consumers and build capacity through short effective training sessions so that they can be certified as suppliers or at least increase the quality level of their services and goods.

Business Continuity Strategy

Beyond traditional response and the areas mentioned above, the Relief 2.0 model extends to local inclusion, business and wealth development through:

  • An open, peer-reviewed database of local goods and services providers.
    • They should be able to be ranked and evaluated by consumers and clients.
    • Conduct a survey of requirements the international organizations and local businesses have for hiring and acquiring goods and services and work on capacity building and certification of local providers and individuals to meet those requirements.
  • A Business-to-Business platform.
    • Combined with the goods and services database for both local businesses and businesses from neighboring Dominican Republic and eventually other countries to promote economic activity.
  • A Digital e-Commerce Marketplace.
    • Where disaster survivors, communities in disadvantage, small and medium enterprises, artisans, small producers and independent entrepreneurs can offer and sell their products and charge for their services to a national and international audience, taking care of financial transactions and delivery for them while engaging local and community organizations as intermediaries.

The combination of these three components should allow identification of synergy opportunities among stakeholders, lowering of costs, improvements in quality of service and products and access to larger markets.

Expected Goals

  • Increased awareness and execution of best practices for disaster preparedness and prevention, including safe practices in constructions, settlements and use of public and private spaces.
  • Access to capacity building graphic and visual content, training and resources for all members of society.
  • Faster and more effective disaster response by local organizations and stakeholders, and better coordination using mobile and crowdsourced technologies to run the last mile and optimize time and resources.
  • Inclusion of local stakeholders in disaster response and recovery activities through pre-listing, capacity building and assessment of local providers of goods and services, stakeholders and active community organizations.
    • Hiring local volunteers and professionals to deliver disaster response and relief services.
    • Local procurement of goods and services required in disaster response and relief.
  • Increased communication and trust among stakeholders from multiple sectors, promoting joint initiatives, synergy development and added value for all.
  • Increased flexibility and dynamics of economic activity with higher levels of inclusion, mobility and scalability.
  • Reduction of dependence on aid and social programs through increased wealth generation.
  • Transparency and accountability of resilience and disaster related programs.
  • Faster return to operations of local businesses after disasters.

Coordination Teams and Unit

  • Resilience Council.
    • Representatives of civil society, non-profit organizations, international organizations, business sectors, state government, local governments or authorities, academia, health, emergency response and national security.
  • Business Continuity Unit.
    • Representatives of business community, their providers and city and state officials, financial organizations.
  • Community Resilience Unit.
    • Grassroots and community organizations, non-profit organizations, international organizations, emergency response and academia.
  • Response Unit.
    • Emergency response public and volunteer organizations, international organizations, academia and community organizations.
  • Preparedness Awareness and Capacity Unit.
    • Emergency response and volunteer organizations, community organizations, academia, news and media.
  • Technology Unit.
    • Local developers and experts, technology user groups and associations, technology businesses associations and groups, telecommunication providers, emergency response organizations.
  • Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Unit.
    • Business advisors, small and medium enterprises, independent producers, artisans, community organizations, financial organizations.

Technology Areas and Fields of Work

  • Technology.
    • Geolocation and collaborative mapping tools.
    • Open data.
    • Citizen generated data.
    • Big data.
    • Software, mobile and web application development.
    • Early alert systems.
  • Civil and Social Activities.
    • Citizen engagement and participation initiatives.
    • Preparedness strategies and actual city and community safety regulations, plannings and implementations.
    • Use of mobile technologies and social networks in disaster response and citizen engagement.
    • Community activities, including hackathons.
  • Business and Finance.
    • Successful wealth generating, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship initiatives.
    • Social entrepreneurship models, initiatives, training and promotion.
  • Capacity and Techniques
    • Documentation and communication of processes, strategies and plans.
    • Graphic design and visualization of data and processes, strategies and plans.
    • Capacity building, education and training programs.

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