By Rachel Belt
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) — Haiti’s government has launched a program to give a new face to slum areas by repairing, painting thousands of homes, installing solar street lights and setting up community centres, restaurants, schools, computer and internet labs and other professional training centres to provide the Caribbean country’s underprivileged youth with better opportunities for the future, officials say.
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe inaugurated over the weekend a community mobilization centre, a computer lab, two community restaurants in Cité Maria, a slum area in the capital, where he also supervised ongoing home renovation works and other social infrastructure initiatives benefiting the deprived population there.
“This program is part of our efforts to fight extreme poverty and reduce hunger,” Lamothe told HCNN on Saturday during a visit to the Cité Maria neighborhood.
“Our goal is to empower the youth and the vulnerable so they may have the tools they need to develop their communities and live in a more dignified way,” said Lamothe who was accompanied with the minister of social affairs, Charles Jean-Jacques.
Youth in the poor district have received, with enthusiasm, the realization of the internet and computer lab, the only one available in their neighbourhood, saying that from now on they are better equipped to do online research and improve their knowledge in different fields.
“I am pleased today to be able to use this cyber cafe to do my research,” said Michel Madelin, 22 years old, sitting at his computer.
“Previously, I had to go for miles from here and I often did not have money to offer myself the service,” Madelin told HCNN.
Several thousand homes have been repaired and repainted in the slums of Jalousie and Cité Maria in a government-sponsored program that is being extended to other poor neighbourhoods in the capital Port-au-Prince and other southern and northern regions.
Some 32 of the 90 community restaurants the government plans to build in poor districts within the next couple of months, are now operational, while 26 more are under construction. The subsidized meals cost about 25 cents per plate.
“We are fully aware of the hardships the population of the poor communities are facing and we are here to tell them that we have not forgotten them,” Lamothe explained.
“We lack means, but we are trying to do much with little,” he said.
Several dozen solar-powered streetlights have been installed; raw food kits and emergency coupons have been distributed in Cité Maria.
Hundreds of poor mothers were registered to receive monthly cash transfers and other social benefits as part of a broader program called Ti Manman Cheri (Dear Little Mother), which has already reached tens of thousands of mothers throughout the country.
Minister Jean-Jacques, said small government-sponsored business entities will be established in the poor communities, such as bakeries, to enable people to produce bread for consumption and create job opportunities.
The government has also launched an initiative to give credit to small vendors in poor areas to facilitate the expansion of their activities.
A literacy program has also been set up to teach the populations how to read and write.
Many in the population welcome those programs, while expecting much more to be done.