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UNDP Launches Cash-for-work Program in Haiti Reconstruction

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Groups of residents were busy clearing rubbles along a street in the Haitian capital's Carrefour district under the roasting midday sun. They were singing a loud and cheerful version of the Haitian national anthem while working.

As the first step toward reconstruction, Haitians have begun to remove rubbles and clean the streets for wages under a UN Development Program (UNDP) plan.

"Only 2 or 3 percent of those on the cash-for-work program had some work before this, because so many people lost their jobs in the quake," said Patrick Massenat, president of the Carrefour district sanitation committee, a leading non-governmental organization in the area.

"The main criteria in the project is one person per household" to ensure that the wages make a difference to the largest number of residents, he told Xinhua.

A UNDP official said earlier that half of the workforce hired by the cash-for-work initiative were women.

Coordinated by the UNDP as part of its Emergency Relief and Recovery Framework, the program is working to put some 100,000 workers on the street as fast as possible in small working schemes, such as cleaning up public facilities, helping with repair of infrastructure and supporting efforts in water accessibility.

The workers are paid 180 gourdes, which comes out to be around US$4.5 at current rates of exchange for six hours of labor.

Gloria Jean Joseph, a high school student dressed in blue T-shirt provided by the UNDP, said the job had given her strength after the chaos following the quake.

Although the government has encouraged schools which are still standing to return to classes, few have done so due to fears for further quakes.

Eliana Nicolini, a Brazilian UNDP official who had been working in Haiti before the earthquake, said she felt privileged to be able to put her heart and soul into the reconstruction. She helped hire more than 30,000 people across Carrefour and surrounding districts.

"There is a committee in ever area and they chose the most needy people," said Nicolini, who believed the quake had brought out solidarity between people.

"The quake has shown us that we are small, tiny dots. Everyone is on the same level now. We are trying to rebuild something using solidarity," Nicolini said.

Official information said the UNDP cash-for-work initiative had received about US$10 million in cash, and an additional US$7 million of funding had been pledged.

(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2010)