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UN Chief Calls for 'A New Haiti'

Haitians walk past damaged buildings in Port-au-Prince, 12 Jan 2010
Haitians walk past damaged buildings in Port-au-Prince, 12 Jan 2010

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the international community to "create a new Haiti" out of the wreckage left by January's devastating earthquake.

Mr. Ban writes Monday in The Washington Post that Haiti needs "nothing less than a wholesale national renewal."  He estimates the Caribbean nation will need $11.5 billion for reconstruction over the next decade.

The secretary-general says Haiti needs to empower women, offer jobs and new economic opportunities to its people, and address the extreme poverty and disparities of wealth.

Mr. Ban says Haiti's leaders are committed to a "new social contract" with the population, and that the Port-au-Prince government has developed a "visionary" strategic national action plan to guide the recovery.  

World leaders will gather at U.N. headquarters in New York Wednesday for a donors conference about Haiti.

More than 100 countries will take part in the U.N. conference to hear Haiti's request for $11.5 billion in assistance.  The Inter-American Development Bank said last week it is erasing $479 million of Haiti's debt, and the European Union is expected to provide $1.36 billion in development aid to Haiti in the coming years.

Even before the January 12 earthquake, Haiti's government was struggling to recover from tropical storms that wiped out 15 percent of the country's economic output in 2008.

The earthquake killed at least 217,000 people and left about 1.3 million others homeless.  Many still live in camps that are vulnerable to flooding and disease when the rainy season season starts in a few weeks.

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