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March 15, 2012

US-Haiti Envoy Urges Patience on Recovery

The U.S. ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten says it will take years to complete reconstruction efforts from the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Mertin  compared the pace of reconstruction efforts in Port-au-Prince to that of New York City's World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attack and the area is still being rebuilt.

"There are a lot of actors on the ground in Haiti coordinating everybody's work," he said. "It's not an easy task, but reconstruction is happening and I think we have to keep pushing and make sure it happens as fast as possible."

Haiti's January 2010 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people and left millions homeless. A cholera epidemic following the quake claimed several thousand more lives.

The ambassador says the reconstruction has been complicated by problems with Haiti's infrastructure, which was in poor condition before the disaster, and a "limited capacity of government," as many officials were killed in the earthquake. He also noted the surprise resignation last month of Prime Minister Garry Conille after just four months in his post.

"As partners of Haiti we hope they work that out as quickly as possible because there are certain things that cannot happen without a government in place," Merten said. "We are eager and anxious to continue our work, [and] I would encourage all actors to put a government back into place as soon as possible."

Merten said he is proud the United States had a "very big, positive impact" in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and he also credited the many actors on the ground who helped deliver food, water and shelter to the victims.

The ambassador said there was no concern about two former Haitian leaders, Jean-Bertrand Aristide and former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, living in their native land years after they were each forced into exile, describing the fact that both men are apparently staying out of politics as a sign that Haiti is a "mature, or maturing democracy."