Donors Pledge $5.3B Over 18 Months To Help Rebuild Haiti

Donors at a conference Wednesday pledged to provide Haiti with $5.3 billion over the next 18 months to help the country rebuild after the January earthquake, the Wall Street Journal reports (Rhoads/Lauria, 3/31).

“The amount exceeded by more than $1 billion the goal set ahead of a conference co-sponsored by the United Nations and the U.S. government. In all, countries, development banks and nongovernmental groups pledged nearly $10 billion for Haiti in years to come,” according to the Washington Post (Sheridan/Lynch, 4/1).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the one-day conference “by calling for the wholesale rebuilding of the country,” the U.N. News Centre writes. During opening remarks, Ban called for donors to provide $11.5 billion over 10 years for rebuilding. “What we envision, today, is wholesale national renewal … a sweeping exercise in national-building on a scale and scope not seen in generations,” he said. Ban said donors “made a good start,” adding, “we need now to deliver” (3/31).

At the conference, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “announced $1.15 billion in U.S. funds for the nation-building effort in Haiti,” the Washington Post reports. “Clinton warned that if the aid effort proves slow or uncoordinated, ‘the challenges that have plagued Haiti for years could erupt, with regional and global consequences.’ She evoked the possibilities of a stream of boat people, increased drug trafficking and the spread of drug-resistant diseases,” according to the newspaper (4/1).

Clinton called on donors to make good on their pledges. “We have to follow through and put them into practice. Therefore, this is not only a conference about what financially we pledge to Haiti. We also have to pledge our best efforts to do better ourselves – to offer our support in a smarter way, a more effective way that produces real results for the people of Haiti,” she said, CNN reports (3/31).

“Haitians have proposed the creation of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission” to oversee the aid over the next 18 months, according to the Miami Herald. “For now, nations that provide $100 million in aid over the next two years, or $200 million in debt relief, will have a voting say in the reconstruction. The framework still requires the approval of Haiti’s parliament, and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive on Wednesday alluded to issues that still need to be worked out. He and Preval both focused their speeches at the conference on the creation of a multidonor trust fund, under the management of the World Bank,” the newspaper writes (Charles, 3/31). 

Beyond aid pledges from government, John Holmes, the U.N. humanitarian chief, said increases in private investment would be the best sign of Haiti’s recovery, the Associated Press reports. “There need to be real investments that are really sustainable … Given half a chance this country can recover,” Holmes said. 

“The effort to attract private investment is being led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, who since before the quake has been tasked with encouraging private companies to provide jobs in a country where 80 percent of people live on less than $2 a day. As co-chair of the committee that will oversee the $5.3 billion in near-term international aid pledged Wednesday, his role in Haiti will only grow,” the news service writes. “We’re going to have to create a financial system,” Clinton said at the conference. “Haiti could become the first completely wireless country in the Caribbean. Haiti could become the first completely self-sufficient country in energy,” he added.

The article includes quotes from Reginald Boulos, president of Haiti’s chamber of commerce, who spoke at the conference. It also notes projects that were announced during the conference, including the Coca-Cola Company’s “$7.5 million, five-year project to foster mango production.” According to AP, “Proceeds will be reinvested to help” Haitian growers (Katz, 4/1).

In related news, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said Wednesday in an interview with Reuters that the earthquake threatens Haiti’s progress in its fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. “Among the few indicators that were showing any progress were those for HIV,” he said. “Haiti was almost a model in responding to HIV,” Sidibe added.

Sidibe highlighted the risk for women who lost shelter in the quake. “Women and girls living in the camps face a major challenge and live in a kind of terror of nightfall, when rape and sexual assaults begin,” Sidibe said. “It’s critical that we protect them from violence or we’ll see an increase in new infections.”

He noted that more than two-thirds of HIV-positive Haitians were affected by the earthquake and more than 5,000 pregnant women in Haiti had HIV. “They need to have more protection or we will experience an increased number of babies born with HIV,” he said. “He said it was too early to see the effects of the quake on HIV patients since it can take at least six months for those deprived of medication to fall sick and die. … ‘We need preventive measures among displaced populations including distribution of condoms and making sure information is well targeted,’ said Sidibe, who was visiting Morocco for an international HIV/AIDS conference” (3/31).

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