U.N. Calls For $1.4B To Fund Basic Needs In Haiti Through The End Of 2010

The U.N. on Thursday launched its “largest appeal following a natural disaster,” calling for $1.4 billion “to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation to 3 million Haitians throughout 2010,” Bloomberg/BusinessWeek reports (Varner, 2/18).

“Some 1.2 million people need emergency shelter and urgent sanitation and hygiene help, while at least 2 million need food aid in the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake which struck Haiti, already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country before the tragedy, on 12 January,” according to the U.N. News Centre. The appeal includes “the $577 million flash appeal issued just days after the earthquake, which was originally intended to cover a six-month period” (2/18).

The U.K. Press Association writes: “U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, launched the appeal at a meeting with diplomats from many of the 191 other U.N. member states.” Ban said, “Before last month’s disaster we had a plan for Haiti’s long-term development and reconstruction.” He continued, “Our challenge today is to reformulate that plan to help Haitians build back better” (2/19).

“Done right, we can turn tragedy into opportunity – an opportunity to reinvent Haiti,” Ban said. He met with Clinton and Leo Merores, Haiti’s ambassador to the U.N., to discuss rebuilding efforts, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek reports.

“Clinton said he was pleased so far with the aid effort and that a Web Site (www.haitispecialenvoy.org) has been created to show on a daily basis what money has been committed and how it is being spent. ‘You have a right to hold me accountable for this,’ Clinton said. ‘There are still too many Haitians living day to day. We have to get them living month to month. There is not enough money in the pipeline right now to get them through this year'” (2/18).

Meanwhile in Haiti, it rained heavily on Thursday for the second time this week, Reuters reports. “The prospect of more rains on the way has added urgency to the government’s appeal for tents and temporary living structures in which to house the homeless … The Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center, which groups the U.S. military, the United Nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other foreign governments and aid groups in an international relief effort, said it was moving to address the critical shelter and sanitation issues before the rainy season begins in mid-March,” the news service writes.

Haiti’s President Rene Preval said he is telling foreign governments that shelter is the major aid need. “Now that we’ve attended to the wounded, taken away the dead, and we’re distributing food and water, the problem of shelter, the tents, is the most urgent,” he said (Fletcher, 2/18).

On Thursday, Senators George LeMieux (R-Fla.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) “sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging the immediate relocation of displaced Haitians to higher ground before the rainy season begins in earnest,” the Associated Press writes. They wrote: “Tragedy will strike again when the rain comes. We urge your administration to stress this point with President (Rene) Preval and Prime Minister (Jean-Max) Bellerive.” In the letter, the lawmakers also “encouraged long-term investment, micro-loans for small businesses and seeding commerce outside Port-au-Prince,” the news service reports (Dodds/Katz, 2/19).

In related news, PBS’ “NewsHour” features an interview with John Holmes, who is leading the U.N. humanitarian efforts in Haiti. Holmes recently visited Haiti and the interview focuses on aid and relief efforts, rebuilding and coordination (Suarez, 2/18).

On the health front, the Miami Herald examines the challenges facing pregnant women in Haiti. Many pregnant women “are giving birth in the tent cities that have come to dominate the Port-au-Prince landscape. The women have almost no privacy, and doctors and midwives are scarce. Garbage and human waste are everywhere. Other pregnant women are crowding the hospitals and medical clinics that were established by the international aid community. It’s putting a strain on the relief organizations, many of which did not bring obstetricians or the proper equipment for delivering babies” (McGrory, 2/18).

Reuters examines the Haitian “restavek” tradition. “Deeply ingrained in the culture of the impoverished former slave colony, the practice of poor families giving away children to wealthier acquaintances or relatives is known in the native Creole as ‘restavek,’ from the French words rester avec, or ‘to stay with.’ Critics call it slavery.The children, they said, are taken in as servants, forced to work without pay, isolated from other children in the household and seldom sent to school” (Loney, 2/18).

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