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Donors Agree To 10-Year Haitian Rebuilding Effort Amid Concerns; No Firm Financial Commitments

At a meeting in Montreal, Canada, on Monday, international donors noted concerns, but agreed to a 10-year reconstruction plan to rebuild Haiti, the New York Times reports. “Given Haiti’s long history of mismanagement of funds, international donors were hesitant to write a blank check. And foreign governments had concerns as well about the government’s ability to direct a large reconstruction project after most government buildings were flattened or severely damaged in the Jan. 12 quake,” the newspaper writes (Lacey/Thompson, 1/25).

Conference participants, who called themselves the “Friends of Haiti,” endorsed a joint statement that said, “‘an initial 10-year commitment is essential.’ They also said that reconstruction must be directed by Haitians and that it must be co-ordinated, effective and transparent,” the Globe and Mail writes (Galloway, 1/26).

According to the Associated Press/New York Times, “The conference did not result in any firm financial commitments, but Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said talks had produced ”’the beginnings of a roadmap’ for helping get Haiti back on its feet, as well as a ‘shared vision’ of the island nation’s longer-term rebuilding” (1/26).

Specific aid amounts will be the focus of another conference, which is planned for March at the U.N. headquarters in New York, the Toronto Star reports. “The World Bank is examining the question of the cost of rebuilding Haiti, [said] Pamela Cox, the bank’s vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean,” the newspaper writes. “‘We have a team in the field now,’ she said, adding the bank has been using satellite data to determine the extent of infrastructure damage. ‘But it’s not just buildings,’ Cox explained, citing economic losses suffered by the private sector and ‘social losses,’ which are harder to determine” (1/26).

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told the meeting that the country had been “bloodied, martyred and ruined” by the earthquake, according to Reuters. “Bellerive thanked the world community for its help so far, but said ‘more and more and more’ was needed to rebuild a fragile Caribbean state which even before the quake was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. ‘What we’re looking for is a long-term (development) commitment … At least five to 10 years,’ he said” (Zengerle, 1/26). He also said that Haiti’s government ”is in the position to assume the leadership expected of it by its people in order to relaunch the country on the path to reconstruction,” the AP/New York Times writes.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodhman Clinton said, ”The government of Haiti must and will be in the lead.” She added, “We cannot any longer in the 21st century be making decisions for people and their futures without listening, and without giving them the opportunity to be as involved and make as many decisions as possible” (1/26). Clinton noted that the conference was just “‘the beginning of a conversation’ about Haiti’s future,” NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” reports (Brand/Keleman, 1/25).

Also at the conference, Anthony Banbury, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for field operations, launched a plan aimed at improving the coordination of aid in Haiti, Pana/Afrique en ligne writes. “He said that plan was designed to coordinate and integrate the political sphere with aid response and military troops. ‘Under the framework of the Joint Operations and Tasking Center (JOTC), political decisions will be based on a prioritized aid response. U.N. peacekeeping police and military troops, in coordination with U.S. and Canadian soldiers, will then turn strategic objectives into action,’ he said,” according to the news service (1/26).

The Wall Street Journal reports that officials at the meeting “agreed that future aid should help Haiti diversify its economy away from the crowded capital Port-au-Prince and help provide people with more jobs in the countryside. A mass exodus of survivors from the quake-torn capital is already under way” (Chon, 1/25).

“Clinton, speaking to reporters during a break in a daylong conference intended to review and improve the delivery of short-term aid as well as chart a course for long-term recovery, said she was encouraged by the analysis of … Bellerive. He told the conference that the exodus from Port-au-Prince has added a new twist to the post-quake challenge,” a second AP/New York Times article reports. ”I was quite heartened to hear the prime minister say that as part of our multilateral efforts to assist Haiti we should look at how we decentralize economic opportunity and work with the Haitian government and people to support resettlement, which they are doing on their own as people leave Port-au-Prince and return to the countryside from which most of them came,” she said (1/25). TIME examines why residents are leaving Port-au-Prince and looks at the longer-term implications (Newton-Small, 1/26).

Ahead of the conference, Clinton met with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Fratini and defended the “heavy U.S. military role in Haiti, saying the earthquake relief effort could not succeed without the early use of Pentagon assets,” VOA News reports. “Asked about criticism of the military emphasis by an Italian politician at a press event with Fratini, Clinton said there will always be second-guessing in such circumstances,” according to the news service. She said, “There is always an opportunity in the face of any disaster for what we in the United States call ‘Monday morning quarterbacking.’ But what we see is an enormously committed and effective international effort that could not succeed without additional military assets” (Gollust, 1/25).

Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator, and Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Programme, “stopped by the operations hub of the Haiti crisis response management team … Monday morning, as the response effort shifts from lifesaving to food aid and eventually, development,” Foreign Policy’s blog, “The Cable,” reports. Sheeran said, “I don’t think we yet know the full dimension of the problem.”

Shah said, “Our primary goal for the next few weeks is to support the WFP and support the capacity they have … to reach as many Haitians as possible with food, water, and other critically needed supplies.” According to the blog, Shah “gave no specific details about how the U.S. was thinking about the long-term Haiti commitment saying, ‘We were there before for a long time; we will be there going forward'” (Rogin, 1/25).

On Capitol Hill, “A bill to provide up to $25 million for repatriation of U.S. citizens who were living in Haiti when the Jan. 12 earthquake struck is on a fast track in Congress,” CongressDaily reports. “The legislation sponsored by Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel [D-N.Y.] is on the House suspension calendar today. … The bill would boost the $1 million annual funding limit for the U.S. Repatriation Program, an HHS program that reimburses states for providing aid such as cash, travel expenses and temporary lodging for Americans returning from an overseas disaster” (1/26).

Health-Related News Coverage

  • The New York Times examines how the earthquake has affected food availability and malnutrition in Haiti. “Stealing food, it is widely known, might get you killed. Children are most likely to return with something to eat, but no matter what is found, or how hungry the forager, everything must be shared,” the newspaper writes. “The communal rationing, along with signs all over the city that say ‘S O S’ and ‘we need food,’ suggests that the food crisis here is growing. In a country where malnutrition was common even before the earthquake, the United Nations now estimates that two million Haitians need immediate food assistance. And despite frantic efforts by aid groups, distribution has been limited. As of Saturday, the World Food Program had reached 207,392 people in Port-au-Prince and 113,313 in other areas” (Cave, 1/25).
  • Despite earlier concerns, “World Health Organization officials say there is no sign yet of any epidemics emerging in the wake of the massive earthquake,” NPR’s “Shots” blog writes. Paul Garwood, a WHO spokesperson, said, “We’ve seen no reports of outbreaks of diseases … We’re not seeing conditions on the ground now as pushing us towards any such outbreaks” (Whitelaw, 1/25).
  • OnMedica reports that the WHO has “issued a public health risk assessment document to assist health professionals working with people affected by the emergency in Haiti.” According to the news service, “The paper lists the main health threats that face the earthquake-affected population and lists the specific priority interventions for immediate implementation” (1/25).
  • PBS’ NewsHour examines aid delivery in Haiti. “Nearly two weeks after the earthquake, Haitian survivors are struggling just to find a place to sleep. The United Nations now reports nearly one million people have been left homeless. … There are too few tents and not nearly enough safe buildings. As U.S. airdrops continue day and night, the U.N. also says food aid has reached half-a-million people, but two million are in need. And questions continue about how well the aid effort is working” (Holman, 1/25).