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USAID Chief: Shelter, Rubble Removal Are Priorities in Haiti Reconstruction Effort

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development says shelter and rubble removal are immediate priorities in the reconstruction efforts in earthquake-devastated Haiti.

USAID Director Rajiv Shah briefed House Foreign Relations Subcommittee lawmakers Thursday on progress and challenges that remain more than six months after the January 12 earthquake.

The impoverished country is still recovering from the temblor, which killed an estimated 230,000 people, left 1.5 million homeless, and caused $7 billion in damage.

Shah said between 300,000 and 400,000 units of shelter are needed. He said aid workers are trying to provide about 135,000 transitional structures right now.

He says teams have assessed close to half of the 400,000 structures people left behind. He said more than half of those inspected homes are in need of repairs, while a fourth of those structures need to be rebuilt from scratch.

Shah says the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission is working with local construction firms and using local materials to try to accelerate the rebuilding.

The aid chief says one of the most significant challenges has been trying to coordinate across the broad range of donors, non-governmental organizations and investors, as well as the Haitian government.

Shah says the Haitian government recently identified more parcels of land for rubble removal, which should bolster transitional housing efforts.

The International Organization for Migration last week said problems with land availability have hindered its ability to provide more shelter to quake survivors still living in tents.