12 October 2011Thousands of Haitians participating in a large-scale clean-up coordinated by the United Nations have removed more than 40 per cent of the 10 million cubic metres of rubble caused by last year’s earthquake. “It’s been a colossal task,” said Jessica Faieta, Haiti’s Senior Country Director for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), today.“For the past 20 months we’ve been working non-stop with the Government of Haiti, civil society organizations, the international community, and especially with community members, in this epic-scale clean-up.”The operation, one of the largest of its kind, involved Haitian citizens as well as nearly 50 in-country UN partners, who helped map all debris-related initiatives in affected areas. Home owners and private enterprises have cleared an additional 10 percent of the rubble.Ms. Faieta stressed that citizens’ participation was crucial for the operation.“Community involvement is essential. Haitians have to be at the centre of reconstruction – and training and empowerment are crucial to their successful management of the earthquake recovery,” said Ms. Faieta.So far, UNDP, the UN Programme for Human Settlements, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Office of Project Services (UNOPS) have trained and hired more than 7,000 Haitians in the fields of manual and mechanical rubble removal, recycling, house repair skills, as well as electric wiring, carpentry and masonry.“These debris removal initiatives are crucial for the reconstruction of Haiti,” said Nigel Fisher, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator.“We are working towards the rehabilitation of neighbourhoods and improvement of living conditions through access to basic services so Haitians can return home safely,” he said.More than 80,000 buildings in the capital city of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas collapsed after the 7.0-magnitude quake that hit the country on 12 January last year, leaving amounts of debris equivalent to 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.It is estimated that 50 per cent of the rubble can be reused to repair roads, improve neighbourhoods and rebuild houses. However, processing the debris has a been slow endeavour as many of the affected communities are located on hillsides, making it difficult to transport heavy machinery to the sites, which means a lot of the clearance has been done manually.The UN is supporting the Haitian Government to finalize a national debris management strategy to establish tracking tools, rubble-removal and recycling standards and to prepare governmental and non-governmental partners for future debris-generating natural disasters.