Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Haiti Hopes For $4Billion to Rebuild After Quake

Haiti hopes for $4 billion to rebuild after quake

Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS
Wed Mar 31, 2010 1:06am EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Haiti will ask the world on Wednesday for $4 billion to help it rebuild and modernize in the wake of the earthquake that destroyed the Caribbean nation's capital and killed up to 300,000 people.

World | Natural Disasters

Some 120 countries, international organizations and aid groups will meet at the United Nations in New York to pledge support for a Haitian government recovery plan that includes decentralizing the economy to create jobs and wealth outside Port-au-Prince, the capital of some 4 million people.

Haitian Finance and Economy Minister Ronald Baudin told Reuters earlier this week that the country was hoping to obtain commitments of just over $4 billion over three years, $1.3 billion of which would be delivered in the first 18 months.

Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere before the magnitude 7.0 quake struck on January 12, with high unemployment and illiteracy among its 9 million people, almost 80 percent of whom lived on less than $2 a day.

Estimates of the total damage inflicted by the earthquake range between $8 billion and $14 billion.

"The country has the best chance in my lifetime ... to build a modern self-sustaining state," former U.S. president Bill Clinton, a U.N. special envoy for Haiti, said in a speech last week.

The European Union and a coalition of U.S.-based humanitarian groups have indicated they are likely to pledge more than $2.7 billion for Haiti at the U.N. conference, while U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $2.8 billion in funds for Haiti relief and reconstruction costs.

Cheryl Mills, counselor and chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said on Tuesday that the United States was planning to help Haiti rebuild in the areas of agriculture, energy, health, security and justice.

The United Nations is also urging countries to support rebuilding Haiti's government capacity after all but one of the country's ministries were destroyed and almost a third of civil servants killed.

Donors and aid partners are insisting that Haiti directs the reconstruction, but monitoring mechanisms are being included in plans to finance the rebuilding effort. The World Bank is due to act as "fiscal agent" of a Multi-Donors Trust Fund to be created for Haiti.

But aid workers are urging donors not to ignore the immediate needs of more than 1 million homeless quake survivors still camped out in streets and open spaces, vulnerable to the approaching rains and hurricane season.

A campaign by the United Nations to raise $1.4 billion in humanitarian aid is still 52 percent short of its goal.

"The appeal has stagnated," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. "It is essential that the burst of generosity that we saw at the beginning of the crisis continues."

(Additional reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva and Pascal Fletcher in Port-au-Prince and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva, editing by Paul Simao)

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