Haiti gets help from U.S. to reduce flood risks

Hoping to reduce the vulnerability of Haitians living in some of the country's most high-risk areas for flash floods, the U.S. Agency for International Development plans to spend $155 million over the next five years on stabilizing some of Haiti's most denuded hillsides.

The commitment comes in the wake of last year's succession of storms that triggered flash floods and mudslides that killed nearly 800 Haitians and caused $1 billion in damage.

"Haiti is facing massive economic and environmental challenges, so you need an integrated watershed management – from ridge to reef, or from top of the mountain to the bottom." said Alex Deprez, USAID acting deputy mission director for Haiti.

But U.S. officials concede that the money is a mere fraction of what Haiti needs to revitalize its hillsides, fix irrigation systems, and protect its 9 million citizens from even normal rains. Experts estimate that Haiti needs $5 billion over the next 15 years to slow the pace of deforestation.

USAID has attempted for more than 20 years to shore up Haiti's crumbling hillsides, focusing mainly on the planting of trees without much success.

Last year, USAID Caribbean administrator Jose Cardenas told Congress: "In all candor, the issue of forestation in Haiti is one that has vexed our agency for many, many years. Unfortunately, planting trees – we could not keep up the pace by which they were being cut down."

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