PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (HCNN) -- From cash transfers to the elderly and disabled, to hot meals and subsidies for students and farmers, the government of Haiti has launched the largest and most structured social assistance program ever implemented in this impoverished Caribbean country.
In an interview with the Haitian-Caribbean News Network (HCNN), Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, said his government, under the leadership of President Michel Martelly, has established a National Social Assistance Program to demonstrate solidarity with the nation's poor.
"Our government feels a strong commitment to help," said Lamothe. "When 57 percent of the country's 10 million people exist on under US $1 per day and 82 percent on less than US $2 per day, we have an obligation to act."
Already, millions of dollars have been directed to the program, known in Creole as EDE PEP (Help the People), with a million people benefiting to date. The ambitious goal is to assist more than five million Haitians by 2016.
Under EDE PEP's Economic and Social Assistance Fund, action is underway to regularly transfer cash to a first group of 25,000 handicapped and 25,000 elderly Haitians in need. As part of a plan to assist 100,000 destitute mothers this year, 57,000 have already received cash transfers. More than 22,000 students are set to receive subsidies, while 60,000 farming kits will be distributed to farm workers in rural areas.
More than 100,000 emergency coupons and nearly half a million hot meals have been distributed through two motorized mobile kitchens in the poorer districts of Port-au-Prince and in provincial cities. Within the next 12 months, the government plans to distribute 818,000 solidarity baskets containing items that can help feed a family of five for up to 10 days. 400,000 baskets have already been distributed.
"This is the first time Haiti has attempted such a vast and orderly social initiative," Lamothe told HCNN. "The US $76 million allocated to the program represents 0.4% of Haiti's per capita GDP."
With US $15 million of the US $76 already spent, the government is looking for additional funds to expand the program.
"Our goal is to lift as many people as possible out of poverty and to set up a social safety net that will guarantee acceptable living conditions for most Haitians," said Lamothe."With the National Social Assistance Program, we want to lay the foundations toward achieving that goal."