Haiti’s President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky” to his music fans) has been urging the world to view Haiti as a tourist destination. It certainly used to be. In 1975, Hillary and Bill Clinton honeymooned in Haiti, as have countless other couples. More importantly, Haiti is, for all her heartache, simply magnificent. And it is worth reminding people that Port-au-Prince is less than a 90-minute flight from Miami or Fort Lauderdale.
In addition to the country’s extraordinary cultural, historic and artistic traditions, Haiti possesses a unique ecological situation, certainly challenged but also, sublime.
The challenges are all too recognizable. Unlike, to the northwest, neighboring Cuba’s 53 protected areas, three of them being World Heritage Sites, approximately 22 percent of that country being under some form of protection; and to the East, the Dominican Republic, with its 67 protected areas including 16 national parks, a demonstrative network of ecotourist sites and accompanying revenues, Haiti – especially since her terrible earthquake – has seen a virtual standstill in terms of wildlife vacations into the nation’s outback. Indeed, the majority of recent visitors to Haiti tend to be with one of the thousands of relief-related NGOs present in the country.
And understandably so:Haiti has suffered more than most nations, and currently must combat widespread unemployment among a population of nearly 10.3 million; persistent crop failures; energy outages; other resource constraints and ongoing reconstruction since the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010.
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Throughout Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, as well as numerous other districts of Haiti, the United Nations Office for Project Services based in Copenhagen, and other agencies are working day and night to re-supply basic infrastructure to the population, including seismically-engineered new modular housing units. These structures are being built in Port-au-Prince by UNOPS and partners involving every nuance, skill set and insight attendant upon the human condition. Such endeavors, among many (including wonderful new hotels emerging throughout the country) are symptomatic of the incredible energies looking towards a bright future for Haiti.
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