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From Haiti to Guatemala: Reducing Risk in Urban Communities

From 2010 to 2012, PCI and its partners transformed a downtown area of Port-au-Prince that was 70% destroyed by the 2010 earthquake into a safer and healthier neighborhood.

Katye (“neighborhood” in Creole) greatly informed what is now more commonly referred to as the “Neighborhood Approach”— an approach to urban disaster response developed to engage a wide array of stakeholders in the design and construction of more habitable and productive neighborhoods. Subsequent projects by the American Red Cross, the World Bank, and others have cited Katye as significant in helping develop their program designs, and new urban disaster risk reduction programs in the region have been funded using this same model.

One of these projects is Barrio Mio, currently being implemented by PCI/Guatemala. The Barrio Mio project is transforming the approach from an emergency response strategy to a risk reduction and mitigation strategy—enlisting universities, government entities, the private sector, and communities in developing methodologies for upgrading high-risk areas.

The nature of the project is truly innovative: stakeholders are engaged in the process of collecting and analyzing information such as risk maps, resources and assets, policies, public service delivery, and private sector incentives for urban upgrading. This intelligence is then coupled with secondary data such as satellite imagery/GIS mapping and census data to provide a rich and multi-textured picture of the actual situation for optimal decision-making and cost-effective investment. The process elevates the voices of local stakeholders to the same level of importance and authority as official or highly technical data, ensuring the incorporation of local perspectives and wisdom; accurate, context-specific data; and high levels of consensus.

This approach is helping to generate solutions for replication across the country. For example, it informs how ministries collect, store and utilize data on informal areas; improves how municipalities upgrade unsafe neighborhoods and restrict the growth of new settlements in high-risk areas; helps gather technical information required to extend basic services; supports the private sector to find new, profitable markets in urban areas that greatly benefit residents; and mobilizes communities to improve their own living conditions.

In order to replicate the impact of a particular program like Katye, PCI must customize, adapt and evolve the approach to be as responsive as possible to the local situation in order to increase the likelihood of sustainable impact. To learn more about how PCI is responding to emergencies and reducing risk in urban communities, please visit our website.