The earthquake of January 12, 2010 served as a brutal and dramatic reminder of the vulnerability of buildings and infrastructure in Haiti to earthquakes, a threat well known to scientists. The coastal towns of the northern Haiti face a high earthquake risk because they are located along the so-called "Septentrional" seismic fault, known responsible for the magnitude 8 earthquake of 1842.This earthquake, accompanied by a tsunami, is estimated to have killed nearly 50% of the population of Cap Haitien at the time and devastated the cities of Port-de-Paix and Fort Liberté.
Despite this, the rarity of significant earthquakes in Haiti since 1842 has contributed to a lack of interest by decision makers and the population, who in fact have not developed the knowledge or tools necessary to adapt to this threat.
Instead, urban development in the northern cities of the country has been carried out with no consideration for earthquake threat. The density of the population of the major cities (nearly half a million inhabitants) has actually increased. Many old buildings, not designed to withstand earthquakes, have been adding additional storey, increasing their vulnerability.
The Haitian Government identified the North as one of the priority development areas of the Country for the industrial activity, tourism, and agriculture. The sustainability of these investments depends on a proper strategy in place to reduce the impact of naturals hazards-earthquake in particular-on economic and social development.
In order to address the threat and to be well prepared for the possible earthquake, UNDP has been requested by the Government to initiate the project called : Plan for Reduction of Seismic risks in the Northern departments of Haiti.
The overall objective of the “ Plan for reduction of seismic risks is to reduce the vulnerability of northern Haiti to earthquakes through activities of: hazard mapping; building and infrastructure assessment; training of construction professionals; education of the public and authorities; and integration
An important component of this project is a dimension on earthquake preparedness planning – including the development of local contingency plans and SIMEXs for seismic events.