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Foreign Ministers Discuss Haiti Relief and Recovery Efforts

Talks in Montreal aim to review aid delivery progress and lay groundwork for larger meeting on Haiti rebuilding effort

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Meredith Buel

Foreign ministers and aid groups leading the effort to help Haiti recover from a massive earthquake met Monday in Canada for their first conference to discuss relief and reconstruction efforts.  The meeting came as aid workers in Haiti struggled to provide assistance to hundreds of thousands of survivors. 

The talks in Montreal are aimed at reviewing the progress of aid delivery and laying the groundwork for a larger meeting to define strategies for rebuilding Haiti.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive is calling for a lengthy global commitment to help his country.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper says while the international community continues to focus on humanitarian assistance, it is time to look at the longer term challenge of reconstruction.

"The international community must be prepared for a sustained, significant effort in Haiti, relying on the leadership of the government of Haiti and in line with its priorities.  It is not an exaggeration to say that ten years of hard work at least awaits the world in Haiti," Harper said.

Before heading to Canada, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that proposals for the United States and other countries to allow more Haitian immigration would be considered as part of the long-term recovery effort.

"We are looking at every option that can provide a better future for the Haitian people.  This is largely, however, within the authority of individual countries.  But we are certainly looking at that, and we will have more to say later," Clinton said.

Nearly two weeks after the January 12 quake crippled the capital, Port-au-Prince, a huge U.S.-led international relief operation is struggling to feed, house and care for hundreds of thousands of survivors.

Kate Conrad, a spokeswoman for the aid organization Save the Children, which has operated in Haiti for 30 years, says food, water and medical care continue to be the most urgent needs.

"Our medical teams are reporting primarily pink eye, skin rashes, things that you would commonly expect. Some cases of diarrhea, which is extremely worrying, because diarrhea kills small children, but no major outbreaks, thankfully," Conrad said.

Outside of Port-au-Prince, Haitians say they have received little, if any, international relief.

Many Haitians continue to live in the streets or in tent cities and are desperate for aid.

The International Organization for Migration says Haiti will need at least 100,000 tents to provide shelter for 500,000 people.

Haitian government officials estimate the death toll from the earthquake is 200,000.

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