29 March 2011Haitian schools, hospitals and other buildings are to be strengthened under a United Nations-backed plan to reduce vulnerability to seismic threats in a country that was devastated 14 months ago by a massive earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and made 1.3 million homeless. “There are crucial decisions to me made by people,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) seismologist, Eric Calais said. “If people have to choose between buying better quality construction material which is earthquake resilient, or building an extra room with the same cost, of course they should choose the first.”The plan, launched by the Government and UNDP, aims to reduce impacts in earthquake-prone areas by improving resilience of infrastructure and reducing risks for Haitians in poor housing.Earthquake prevention planning will be conducted in consultations with mayors and community associations. Schools, hospitals and other public buildings will be assessed first on how to strengthen their structure.UNDP and local governments will train Haitian architects, engineers and masons in construction techniques for earthquake-resistant structures. They will also initiate awareness programmes to inform Haitians of necessary actions that could minimize the impact of seismic threats on their lives.This plan was recently approved by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, a panel composed of Haitian Government officials, the UN, former United States President Bill Clinton who is UN Special Envoy for Haiti, and other international partners.