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Haitian President To Meet With Obama As Long-Term Rebuilding Plans Take Shape

Haitian President Rene Preval is expected to meet with President Barack Obama Wednesday in the U.S. to ask for “billions of dollars to rebuild” Haiti, Agence France-Presse reports. The White House said that Obama will emphasize that the U.S. is a “friend and partner” to Haiti and discuss ways the international community could aid Haiti (Burleigh, 3/7).

“A team of 150 Haitian government officials and 90 international experts” are currently working on a blueprint this week aimed at rebuilding Haiti, Reuters reports. Doekle Wielinga, a World Bank disaster recovery expert who is leading the effort, said the plan will be submitted to the Haitian government before it is evaluated at a meeting of technical experts in the Dominican Republic on March 16, ahead of a donor conference in New York at the end of the month.

“Wielinga stressed that a single recovery plan produced by international actors and the Haitian government would likely produce more coherence, but he acknowledged the difficulties of restoring a country beset by long-term structural weaknesses,” the news service writes. 

The article also includes quotes from Haitians who said they do not have a lot of confidence in their government and criticized its response to the January quake. “‘We have never had the impression that the government was on the side of the people. Never ever,’ said Florence Romain, a civil engineer. ‘Haitians got used to it. They ended up counting on God'” (Bigg, 3/7).

Meanwhile, “U.S. troops are withdrawing from” Port-Au-Prince, the Associated Press reports in an article examining the pull out. “Haitians and some aid workers wondered whether U.N. peacekeepers and local police are up to the task of maintaining order,” according to the news service.

“U.S. officials say the long-anticipated draw down of troops is not a sign of waning commitment to Haiti, only a change in the nature of the operation. Security will now be the responsibility of the 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force and the Haitian police,” the AP writes. Head of the U.S. Southern Command Gen. Douglas Fraser, who is leading operations in Haiti, said that a small but undetermined number of U.S. soldiers will be required as the U.N. and Haitian government take over the day-to-day operations (Fox/Kay, 3/7).

Back in Washington, D.C., the House Financial Services Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade cleared a proposal on Thursday asking the Treasury Department to work with the IMF and other global lenders to clear Haiti’s debts, Roll Call reports. The article looks at how nonprofits are working to achieve this.

“With the legislation now awaiting further House action, the ONE Campaign, a grass-roots lobbying and advocacy group started by U2 frontman Bono, is leading an informal coalition to put additional pressure on the Inter-American Development Bank and other lenders to throw out Haiti’s outstanding loans, which Treasury estimates at $828 million,” the publication writes (Murray, 3/8).

In related news, the AP looks at growing criticism over how financial aid to Haiti has been spent. “Haitian leaders – frustrated that billions are bypassing them in favor of U.N. agencies and American and other non-governmental organizations – are whipping up sentiment against foreign aid groups they say have gone out of control. In the past few days, someone scrawled graffiti declaring ‘Down with NGO thieves’ along the cracked walls that line the road between Port-au-Prince’s international airport, the temporary government headquarters, and a U.N. base,” writes the news service.

The article breaks down the international donations and outlines how USAID monitors its spending (Katz, 3/6). As of Friday, Americans have made more than $1 billion in private donations to the Haiti relief effort, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, which has been “monitoring donations received by 91 charities engaged in Haiti relief since the quake on Jan. 12,” the AP reports. “About one-third of it has gone to the American Red Cross,” according to the tally (3/6).

News outlets reported on other recent developments in Haiti:

“Starting on February 8, the Red Cross-led team consisting of 120 volunteers from all over the world began vaccinating as many as 10,000 Haitians in a single day. And as of [Thursday], 100,000 have so far been vaccinated,” USA Today’s “Kindness” blog reports (Garton, 3/5).

The Los Angeles Times reports on the lack of sanitation available to homeless earthquake survivors. “A dire shortage of toilets in the more than 300 encampments that have sprouted willy-nilly across Port-au-Prince has added to the list of daily rigors faced by displaced residents. But it is more than a matter of inconvenience. With rainy season expected to begin next month, sanitation and hygiene loom as urgent health concerns for about 1 million people living in fields and vacant lots in quake-struck areas in and around the capital,” the newspaper writes (Ellingwood, 3/6).

A second Los Angeles Times story looks at Haiti’s health prospects after emergency medical workers, who have become Haiti’s “de facto healthcare system,” inevitably leave. “Efforts are already underway to persuade wealthy donor nations to fund nascent plans for training a new generation of Haitian medical professionals and spend the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build appropriate facilities. In the face of so much need, however, such talks have been slow to gain traction, medical aid experts say, leaving many with the unsettling notion that Haiti’s ragged network of clinics and hospitals could soon be left largely on its own again” (Rubin, 3/7).

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