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Working to Protect their City – Hurricane Protection Success in
Gonaives, Haiti
When the hurricanes and tropical storms hit Haiti in 2004
and 2008, one of the most affected cities was Gonaives
(170 kilometers north of Port-au-Prince). This coastal city of
approximately 200,000 has a special importance to Haiti
since it was here that independence was declared in 1804.
Yet it is situated unfortunately at the bottom of a semi-circle
of mountains all of whose ravines and slopes usher any
storm water down towards the sea-level city of Gonaives.
With the deforestation of Haiti’s mountain in recent years
the water that bar-rels down the mountains brings with it all
the top soil from the slopes burying Gonaives in
catastrophic mudslides and floods.
“When the waters came, my six children and I were swept
away more than 50 meters from our house,” says Jésula
Jean Pierre, 46, a resident of Gonaives remembering
Hurricane Hanna that hit the city two years ago in
September 2008. Four years before that, when Hurricane
Jeanne caused Gonaives to flood in mid-September 2004,
her husband was one of the 3,000 people killed in Haiti –
close to 2,900 of those in the city of Gonaives. “My children
and I were able to escape alive from the mudslides with the
help of our neighbors,” says Jésula of the second
time in four years that the hurricanes hit
Gonaives. But her house, small business and
small crop land were completely destroyed.
Noel Dieuseul, 37, also escaped with his family
during the 2008 hurricane floods that hit
Gonaives. “I was terrified when I saw the volume
of water and the mud coming down the canals,”
he says, “but all of us, my mother, my two
brothers, my wife and two children were able to
escape alive.” Noel’s house, which is on the
border of one of the city’s main canalways, was
not greatly damaged. “After the floods,” recalls
Noel, “all the windows and doors of my house
were blown in and the furniture, kitchen utensils and everything in the house was carried away and
destroyed by the flood waters and mud.”
Both Noel and Jésula are part of CHF’s cash-for- work teams
involved in the city-wide constructions funded by USAID
aimed to prepare and protect the city of Gonaives against
flooding and mud-slides. Noel, who is a masonry technician,
has been working on the construction of the Bienac Canal
which when finished will run 1.7 kilometers and is 2 meters
deep, with a cement base of close to 10 meters wide. There
are 150 CFW employed everyday in the construction of this
Canal, which is one of three main Canal ways being
constructed by CHF with USAID funds. Dozens of smaller
drainage canals connect to these big canal-ways, all of which
run down to drain out in the sea.
In total, 15,530 linear meters of drainage canals have been built by CHF with USAID funds in Gonaives. In
these works over 5,600 people have been employed through the cash-for-work programs. This pro-gram
involves the community in bettering the conditions of their city but also serves to inject some much needed
cash into the local economy.
“With the money I received from working on the project,” says Jésula, “I paid some of my debts, bought
building material to reconstruct my house and have been able to feed my children.” Jésula has also been
able to re-start her small commerce of retail selling.
Noel’s wife had wanted to leave their house and the city and relocate somewhere else. But with the new
project of building the canal they feel assured that they will not have to live through the same type of
catastrophe as those experienced in the past four years.
Noel himself, though a trained stonework technician, has difficulty finding work. He often travels to the
Dominican Republic to find work, but has been grateful for the opportunity to work under the USAID funded
project. “I am happy to be doing this work because the rain before had caused much damage and now
things will be much better.”

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