Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Haiti Can Lead Quake Recovery

Haiti 'can lead quake recovery'

Haiti's government can lead efforts to rebuild the country in the wake of its devastating earthquake, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has said.

But Mr Bellerive told a meeting of world officials in the Canadian city of Montreal that "massive support" from the international community was needed.

The Montreal meeting was held to assess the aid effort and plan the next steps.

The delegates agreed to hold an international donors' conference at the UN headquarters in New York in March.

But Canadian Prime Stephen Harper warned that it would take a decade to rebuild Haiti.

"It was not an exaggeration to say that at least 10 years of hard work awaits the world in Haiti," Mr Harper said.

It is believed the 7.0 magnitude quake on 12 January killed as many as 200,000 people. An estimated 1.5 million people have been left homeless.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attending the conference along with delegates from 20 countries and representatives from the UN and the World Bank.

'Vital needs'

"The Haitian government is working in precarious conditions but it can provide the leadership that people expect," Mr Bellerive said.

"The top priority right now is to satisfy the vital needs of victims, like food and water, shelter and health care."

He added: "Haiti needs the massive support of its partners in the international community in the medium and long term. The extent of the task requires that we do more, that we do better and, without a doubt, that we work differently."

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon welcomed the US offer to host an international donors' conference in March.

"We now have the beginnings of a road map toward Haiti's long-term reconstruction and a clear and sustained commitment to follow through," Mr Cannon was quoted as saying by French news agency AFP.

Mr Cannon said one goal was to "physically get the Haitian government back on its feet".

The quake destroyed key government buildings, including the National Palace.

'Vanity parade'

UK-based charity Oxfam has urged the international community to get Haiti's foreign debts cancelled.

It said about $900m (£557m) owed to donor countries and institutions should be written off.

The World Bank has already announced that it is waiving Haiti's debt payments for the next five years.

And the Paris Club of creditor governments - including the US, UK, France and Germany - has called on other nations to follow its lead in cancelling debts to Haiti. Venezuela and Taiwan are the other biggest creditors.

Although aid continues to flow into Haiti, the head of Italy's civil protection service has strongly criticised the relief effort and the role of thousands of US troops sent there.

Guido Bertolaso described the international aid operation as "a terrible situation that could have been managed much better".

"When there is an emergency, it triggers a vanity parade. Lots of people go there anxious to show that their country is big and important, showing solidarity," he said on Sunday.

Mr Bertolaso, an Italian government minister, said it was "commendable" for the US to lead relief efforts, but "too many officers" meant they had not been able to find a capable leader.

Aid workers have also criticised Haitian government plans to relocate hundreds of thousands of people from the capital, Port-au-Prince, to large camps outside the city.

Caroline Gluck, from Oxfam, told the BBC the move could be dangerous for the survivors.

"In the past, experience has told us establishing some huge camps can cause all kinds of security problems, for example, robberies, rapes and kind of gang activities if the camps are kept too big," she said.

Oxfam was pressing for the camps to be smaller, she added.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/01/26 03:54:16 GMT

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