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Haiti, IDB announce completion of rehabilitation of main highway, launch road safety campaign

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haitian President Michel Joseph Martelly and Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno today took part in a ceremony marking the completion of the rehabilitation of a key stretch of Route Nationale 1, one of Haiti’s principal highways. 

The IDB, Haiti’s leading multilateral donor, provided $70 million for the rehabilitation of an 80-kilometer (50-mile) section between Titanyen, outside of Port-au-Prince, and the city of Saint Marc. Transportation infrastructure is one of the largest components in the Bank’s $1 billion project portfolio in this country. 

RN1 links the Haitian capital with the north of the country. The highway’s rehabilitation will help reduce travel times by half, enabling a quicker transportation of passengers and goods. In order to turn the improved stretch into a model corridor, the IDB has partnered with 3M, a leading U.S. company, which sent specialists to evaluate the road's conditions and is donating state-of-the-art signage and safety materials. 

During the ceremony, Martelly and Moreno launched a campaign to improve road safety. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of deaths among young people in Latin America and the Caribbean, where low-income countries such as Haiti lose between 1 and 2 percent of their GDP a year due to the economic cost of crash-related deaths and injuries. 

“This is a preventable tragedy,” said Moreno at a ceremony held here. “That is why we are taking action. We are incorporating road safety into all our road transport projects and we are partnering with others to spread this message.” 

Several donors are supporting different aspects of the campaign. The Korean government financed its design and implementation. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing 5,000 helmets and training for motorcycle taxi drivers. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) developed communication materials for public dissemination. Sesame Workshop is donating Sesame Street coloring books with road safety themes. 

Among the campaign’s local partners are the Lucienne Deschamps Foundation, the municipalities of Saint Marc, Arcahaie and Cabaret and many local media outlets. 

The campaign’s messages will be spread in many ways, besides traditional roadside billboards. Samuel Dalembert, the only Haitian-born player in the National Basketball Association, will serve as a spokesman. Michael Benjamin, a young star of Haiti’s kompa music, wrote and interpreted the campaign’s song with the Petites Chanteurs, a renowned choir from a local music school, Holy Trinity. 

In a bid to influence drivers and passengers of tap taps, the colorful buses and pickup trucks used for mass transport, the campaign will distribute recordings of Radio Tap Tap, 15-minute soap operas that will weave in road safety themes. More than 400 tap tap owners have agreed to play the recordings on their vehicles.

Messages such as “speed kills,” “helmets save lives,” and “alcohol and driving don’t mix” will be aimed at adult drivers via radio and Chemin Lakay, a newspaper that uses cartoons to propagate public service message on vital social issues. The campaign will particularly focus on youths and children, who typically walk to and from school on busy roads.

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