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U.N. Taps Bill Clinton To Lead Haiti Rebuilding; 200,000 People Died In Quake, Haitian PM Says

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday asked former President Bill Clinton, currently the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, to oversee aid and rebuilding efforts in Haiti, CNN reports (2/3).

Ban “specifically asked President Clinton to assume a leadership role in coordinating international aid efforts from emergency response to the reconstruction of Haiti,” U.N. spokesperson Martin Nesirky said, Reuters reports. “There’s an awful lot of goodwill out there, an unprecedented flow of aid and good intentions and cash, and the idea is to ensure that that comes together in the right way,” Nesirky said.

In this role, Clinton will be charged with coordinating the work of NGOs, private groups, governments and U.N. agencies, according to the U.N. “Clinton said he was ‘pleased to take on an expanded role in the recovery efforts’ and would learn from disasters like the 2004 Asian tsunami,” the news service writes (Worsnip, 2/3). He said “the challenges are great” and there are “a lot of emergency problems to deal with,” CNN writes (2/3).

Ban said he asked Clinton to launch an emergency fundraising campaign on Feb. 17 to secure money for humanitarian efforts this year. “The United Nations launched its first ‘flash’ appeal – for $575 million – last month and said last Friday it had been 82 percent funded,” according to Reuters (2/3).

On Wednesday, Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said more than 200,000 people died in the earthquake, Agence France-Presse reports. “More than three weeks after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake, Bellerive said his tiny Caribbean nation had been ravaged by ‘a disaster on a planetary scale’ and detailed the tragic toll suffered by his people,” the news service writes.

He said, “There are more than 200,000 people who have been clearly identified as people who are dead.” An additional 300,000 people have been treated for injuries, 250,000 homes destroyed and 30,000 businesses lost, according to Bellerive.

The article also looks at brewing frustrations over the pace of aid distribution. “Despite a massive aid operation, a lack of coordination and the sheer extent of the damage have hampered the distribution of food and water leading to mounting tensions among a million people left homeless,” AFP writes. Of the anger about aid, Anthony Chan, USAID deputy director, said, “It is natural that they feel like that after a catastrophe of this magnitude … We are doing the best that can be expected.” According to AFP, there are about 20,000 U.S. troops in Haiti to assist with aid efforts (Renois, 2/3).

Some Haitians are facing hunger as food aid struggles to make its way to all those in need, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “Aid workers say that food and other supplies are now flowing into the country three weeks after the Jan. 12 quake, but red tape, fear of ambush, transportation bottlenecks and corruption are keeping it from many people who need it. Hungry protesters jogged along a broad avenue in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville waving branches and chanting, ‘They stole the rice! They stole the rice!'” (Dodds, 2/3).

Providing Shelter To The Homeless

Haiti’s government and other parties involved in the aid effort are debating how to provide shelter for earthquake survivors before the rainy season starts, Reuters reports. “Some ministers have said survivors will be relocated in temporary settlements outside the wrecked capital. But these tent cities have not materialized so far and international aid agencies say the focus should be on a longer-term solution. … The onset of the rainy season in March could threaten flash floods and further building collapses in the ruined city, and also increase the risk of diseases,” the news service writes.

USAID would prefer to work with existing makeshift shelters and reinforce them with better materials – what they call, “Thinking outside the tent,” according to Reuters. “‘We are playing catch-up here. A lot has already been done by those directly affected by the earthquake. We try to supplement and accelerate the process,’ said a USAID official with experience of working in disasters around the world” (Rosenberg, 2/3).

“Shifting tactics in the race to shelter an estimated one million Haitians displaced by the earthquake, aid groups on Wednesday began to de-emphasize tents in favor of do-it-yourself housing with tarpaulins at first, followed by lumber,” the New York Times writes in an article examining discussions about housing for people who lost their homes.

“Tents really have a shelf life of not much more than six months,” said Mark Turner, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration. “In contrast, he added: ‘You can stand up in a shelter that you build. You can start a business there'” (Cave, 2/3).

“Thousands of Port-au-Prince’s newly destitute residents aren’t waiting for the government or the United Nations. As they have for decades, they’re taking matters into their own hands, cobbling shelter together from whatever’s at hand,” the Miami Herald reports in an article that also looks at the housing issue.

“But their self-help efforts – abetted by international aid agencies that are encouraging Haitians to build out of sturdy materials as the rainy season rapidly approaches – may complicate plans by the Haitian government to rebuild the country’s capital. … The government and the United Nations have plans to move people out of the spontaneous, post-quake settlements into planned temporary camps just outside the city,” the newspaper writes.

“The government now needs to clear out the improvised camps inside the city and begin demolishing buildings to make room for planned, organized and well-built neighborhoods, said Charles Clemont, special advisor to President Rene Preval,” according to the Miami Herald (Robles/Viglucci, 2/3).

USA Today examines the challenges facing Haitian law makers since the earthquake. “Haiti’s government has been decimated by the earthquake. Most official buildings – including the National Palace, collapsed. Many government officials were killed, and those who weren’t were looking for missing family members or sorting through damaged property. The government has been unable to pay its remaining employees, though there was talk of salaries resuming, according to the environment minister,” the newspaper writes (Dilanian, 2/4). PBS’ NewsHour has an interview with Haiti’s Minister of Tourism Patrick Delatour, who is also leading the reconstruction commission. The interview focuses on the government’s response to international aid efforts and related topics (Epatko/Suarez, 2/3).

More Medevaced Haitians Arriving U.S.; Child Trafficking; Vaccinations

Some people who were severely injured in the quake are being sent to Atlanta and Tampa, Fla., where two new Federal Coordinating Centers have opened at the airports, the Washington Post reports. According to USAID, the command centers have facilitated the arrival of dozens of Haitian patients in three days of operation. “Tampa and Atlanta are two of several regions that volunteered to help when contacted over the weekend during a White House brainstorming session to resolve Florida’s concerns. Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Lyons, N.J., are on standby to activate Federal Coordinating Centers if needed, an HHS spokeswoman said” (Fears, 2/4).

The New York Times also reported on the medical evacuations, which are “being handled at a national level by the Department of Health and Human Services, and coordinated locally with Departments of Veterans Affairs and the Red Cross. In some cases, family members of patients will also be flown to the United States and provided with hotel rooms and translators.” According to the newspaper, “Hospitals in Atlanta and Tampa were selected because of their extensive medical resources and proximity to Haiti” (Brown, 2/3).

On Wednesday, U.S. officials said they would commit and additional $1 million to combat child trafficking in Haiti, CNN reports. At the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “called trafficking in people ‘one of the most important human rights issues we deal with.'” Ambassador Louis CdeBaca, of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, said, “‘we are hearing anecdotal evidence from UNICEF’ about trafficking of children but there are no firm figures on it” (Dougherty, 2/3).

Xinhua reports that Ann Veneman, the head of UNICEF, is scheduled to arrive in Haiti on Thursday to launch a major immunization campaign targeting 2.5 million Haitians. Kate Donovan, a UNICEF spokesperson, said, “The time is critical in this kind of thing because if you start to get an outbreak then it can spread very quickly in the unhygienic conditions that exist in Haiti.” She continued, “Children are 100 percent vulnerable because many children are malnourished so their natural resistance to any disease is really reduced” (2/4).