Haitian Relief Changes Focus From Immediate To Long Term Needs

01.25.10 | FL News Team

Even as U.S. and UN troops hand out aid in Haiti's quake-shattered capital, foreign ministers are trying to figure out longer-term solutions for rebuilding the impoverished nation. In recent days, U.S. Army Humvees have formed a corridor in Port-au-Prince's worst slum and kept the peace while passing out food packs, water and crackers. Creole speakers can often be heard shouting instructions through loudspeakers as people line up for bags of rice, beans and corn flour.

 Even so, many in the region's 300 makeshift shelters complain they aren't getting enough food and water, or getting it fast enough. Tents and medicines remain in short supply. Some 12 days after a magnitude seven earthquake killed up to 200-thousand people, some three million people are still hurt or homeless. The government has persuaded more than 130-thousand people to leave Port-au-Prince. But another 609-thousand people remain without any shelter at all within the capital.

 Meanwhile, a day-long summit in Montreal today will look at debt forgiveness and reconstruction for Haiti. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with her Canadian and French counterparts and other envoys to discuss a way forward for struggling Haitians. They're not aiming for a specific dollar amount of pledged aid, but a clearer picture of what's needed. Haiti's foreign debt is estimated by relief groups at about a billion dollars. Several western governments belonging to the Paris Club of creditor nations say they're speeding up debt relief. They're calling on Taiwan and Venezuela, two of Haiti's major creditors, to join efforts spearheaded by the U.S., Canada, France and Britain. In addition, neighboring Dominican Republic has proposed that international donors help create a ten-billion-dollar assistance fund for Haiti.