Haiti’s prime minister put forward a strong case Monday to the international community for more aid, but made clear that Haiti wants to guide the process and develop its own vision of rebuilding the shattered capital Port-au-Prince and outlying areas.
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive spoke to foreign ministers from 20 nations in Montreal, where Canada called for participants to consider forgiveness of the Caribbean country’s nearly 1-billion-dollars in foreign debt.
The Haitian government “is working under precarious conditions but it is in a position to assume the leadership role expected by its people in order to launch the country on its path to reconstruction,” Bellerive told delegates.
Before the conference opened, he said he was not in Montreal to “simply ask for help.” “We have a plan,” he said, that calls for the future to be “clearly delineated by the Haitians for the Haitians using democratic means.” The conference paved the way for a donors’ conference in March where monetary pledges are expected. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia boycotted the conference to protest the presence of 20,000 US military personnel in an aid capacity in Haiti.
In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers agreed to send at least 300 police officers to Haiti to boost the United Nations’ stabilization mission (MINUSTAH). Japan was also considering dispatching more troops. The UN mission, which was seriously damaged by the January 12 mammoth earthquake, has confirmed 82 staffers dead and another 53 missing.
Haitian President Rene Preval requested 200,000 tents before the spring rainy season arrives, the UN mission in Haiti said. As many as 800,000 Haitians need shelter. The government plans to build tent cities outside of Port-au-Prince to house many of the displaced.
Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean, who has helped spearhead fundraising efforts, supported the idea in an interview: “The cleaning will take long, that’s why I say: Start bringing the people out of the city with tents and start to convert the tents into homes.” The World Food Programme said Haiti would need more food — and for a much longer time than anticipated -- in what WFP executive director Josette Sheeran called “the most complex operation that WFP has ever faced.” Much of the food must be transported over bad roads from the neighbouring Dominican Republic on WFP’s 75 trucks.
At least 112,000 people are confirmed dead, and that number is expected to climb. An intense, almost daily series of aftershocks has brought more buildings tumbling and caused more injuries and deaths.
Bellerive called for Haitians living abroad to come home and help rebuild the country. “The catastrophe has escalated the emigration of Haitians. We need people to take courage and return,” he said.
In other developments: -- Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou planned to fly with an aid delivery to Haiti’s neighbour, the Dominican Republic, just a short hop away from Honduras, where he had been planning to attend the presidential inauguration on Wednesday.
** A 21—member Philippine medical team was on its way to help address the growing urgency for wound and trauma treatment. The Haitian government estimates the number of injured at 194,000, many with mangled and crushed limbs.
** Private donations in Britain for earthquake relief reached 46 million pounds (74 million dollars), according to the umbrella aid group The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).
** The United Nations Human Rights Council plans to meet on Wednesday for a special session in Geneva on Haiti, to focus on a “human rights approach” to relief efforts.
** The United States plans to create 20,000 jobs by the end of the month in Haiti by hiring people to help with the cleanup, the US State Department’s coordinator for relief and reconstruction, Lewis Lucke, said. Hiring has already begun.
** The European Union said it would not launch a comprehensive plan to facilitate adoptions of child quake orphans. In Washington, the US State Department confirmed that the US has evacuated more than 360 Haitian orphans and expected another 200 children. It was working through adoption centres to resettle them.
The status of these US-bound children was not clear. In Haiti on the weekend, Information Minister Marie Laurence Joselin Lassegue said that the government has put a halt to new adoptions and would only allow children already in the midst of adoptions to leave.