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UN chief for Haiti fund
UNITED NATIONS, MAR 31 (AGENCIES)
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Published on 1 Apr. 2010 12:44 AM IST
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UN chief Ban Ki-moon has opened a fundraising conference on Haiti by calling for a “wholesale national renewal” of the earthquake-hit country.
Mr Ban gave his support to a plan to rebuild Haiti which will require almost $4bn (£2.65bn) in initial aid payments. The US is expected to cover a large proportion of the cost - and other nations have indicated they will make up the rest. The January 12 earthquake killed 200,000 and left one million homeless.
The Haitian government and international officials plan to set up a trust fund to decide how to spend the aid money.
Also envisaged is the establishment of an Interim Reconstruction Commission, to be chaired by Haiti’s prime minister and a UN representative, and a Reconstruction Agency for the longer term.
The main tasks are to reconstruct destroyed government buildings, hospitals and schools, get farms working again and create jobs. Mr Ban said the plan was “concrete, specific and ambitious”, and said delegates should give it their “full and generous support”.
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said it was crucial to get this first step in reconstruction right. “There should be a clear plan of action and a clear vision of how Haiti is going to be reconstructed which is endorsed by the international community,” he said.
“The pledging of those funds for the immediate future is very important as a sign of the willingness of the international community to actually do that.”
Haiti’s government has set a preliminary target of $3.8bn for an 18-month period starting in October, to fulfil the tasks identified in a post-disaster needs assessment by the government and aid agencies. But officials estimate that $11.5bn (£7.6bn) will be needed for long-term reconstruction.
The country was already the poorest country in the Western hemisphere before the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck. Unemployment and illiteracy were high among its 9 million population, about 80% of whom were living on less than $2 a day.
The European Union and a coalition of US-based humanitarian groups have indicated that they are likely to pledge more than $2.7bn, while US President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $2.8bn.
Everyone is aware that billions of dollars of aid have failed to fix Haiti in the past, our correspondent at the UN says.
To help make it work this time, the aim is to strengthen the country’s weak and corrupt government institutions, she adds.
Edmond Mulet, the acting head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (Minustah), said this was not an option, but a responsibility. “The international community is co-responsible for that weakness of Haitian institutions and the Haitian state,” he said.
“We’ve always worked not with the government or through the government, because it has been too corrupt, too weak. But if we don’t address the situation we will have a peacekeeping mission in Haiti for the next 200 years.”
Both Haiti’s government and donors are insisting that a strategy of decentralisation is at the heart of the reconstruction plan.
They aim to increase development in parts of the country that are less vulnerable to natural disasters than the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The capital’s population more than tripled to 2.5 million in the three decades before the quake.
Officials also hope to develop a rural agricultural strategy that would enable Haiti to become more self-sufficient. Haiti is dependent on food imports, yet about 80% of the population works in agriculture.
Earlier, the UN Office for the Co-ordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that it had received only 48% of the $1.44bn in emergency aid it had sought in a flash appeal after the earthquake.
“The appeal has stagnated,” spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said. “It is essential that the burst of generosity that we saw at the beginning of the crisis continues.”
Aid agencies have warned that the temporary shelters being used by hundreds of thousands of homeless will be insufficient to handle the heavy rains expected in April and the June hurricane season.

 
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