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Haiti to Ask International Community for $11.5 Billion in Reconstruction Aid

  • Margaret Besheer

More than 230,000 killed, over one million others left homeless in nation where most citizens were already living in poverty

The international community will meet at the United Nations this week to make financial commitments to earthquake ravaged Haiti's reconstruction. Haitian President Rene Préval is expected to ask for some $11.5 billion to rebuild the country.

Haiti's recovery from the devastation of January's 7.0 magnitude earthquake will take years and billions of dollars.

More than 230,000 people were killed and more than one million others were left homeless in a nation where most citizens were already living in deep poverty.

At Wednesday's donors' conference, Haitian President Rene Préval will present the international community with his government's needs and its plan for recovery and reconstruction.

He is co-hosting the meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Ban has said the focus is now beginning to shift from emergency aid to longer term reconstruction.

"Then I hope that this international Donors conference on 31 March will be a crucially important momentum where international community express their strong solidarity and support for the Haitian government and people through very generous financial support," he said.

Several countries have already expressed their intention to help, including the United States. President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $2.8 billion for Haiti. Last week, the Inter-American Development Bank forgave nearly $500 million of Haiti's foreign debt.

The U.N. Development Program is in the lead on the donors' conference from the U.N. side. Jordan Ryan is UNDP's Director of Crisis Prevention and Recovery. He says the hope is that the pledging conference will raise the funds necessary for the first 2 to 3 years of reconstruction.

"We do hope that we will find resources in the range of $3.5 billion, maybe a bit more, that would be able to get the early reconstruction underway," he said.

And there is plenty to do. A top priority is building transitional shelters for Haiti's more than one million homeless. Funds are also needed to rebuild the country's heavy infrastructure, its schools and hospitals.

Haiti's government will have the ultimate responsibility for overseeing those plans. But it will work closely with international partners, including the United Nations, the United States and international financial institutions.

"The international community is working closely with the Haitians in developing what might be an Interim Development Commission. There's talk now, and I think it will be announced at the conference, of engagement of former [U.S.] President [Bill] Clinton as U.N. Special Envoy to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the Haitian president and prime minister in that commission," he added.

Mr. Clinton most recently visited Haiti last week. He stressed the importance of involving a wide range of people and organizations in reconstruction.

"The diaspora, the NGOs, all the people who have been moved by the earthquake and want to continue their involvement, and the private investment community - we have to get them all going in the same direction and we are going to try to do that," said Bill Clinton.

Those groups will have representatives at the donor's conference who will give their assessment of what is needed for the reconstruction effort.

The money Wednesday's conference hopes to raise is in addition to the $1.4 billion the U.N. appealed for earlier this year to meet emergency humanitarian needs. Only about half those funds have been pledged.

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