Saturday, September 27, 2008

Haiti President René Préval Calls For Long-Term Reconstruction Effort

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="100" caption="Haiti President Rene Preval"]Haiti President Rene Preval[/caption]

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Haiti's president implored leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday to commit to long-term solutions to help his nation after a series of hurricanes and tropical storms killed hundreds.

Though thanking the international community for food aid and other assistance, President Rene Preval said he feared that a "paradigm of charity" would not end cycles of poverty and disaster.

"Once this first wave of humanitarian compassion is exhausted, we will be left as always, truly alone, to face new catastrophes and see restarted, as if in a ritual, the same exercises of mobilization," Preval said.

Preval said it will take years to recover from the four killer storms that wiped out at least 60% of Haitian agriculture and destroyed roads, bridges and homes across the country in late August and early September.

At least 425 people were killed in the storms. Officials said more than 800,000 people in the country of 9 million were left needing food, water or shelter, including more than 300,000 children.

Aid to rebuild Haiti has not poured in as many had hoped. The U.N. has only received 3.4% of its $108 million appeal for relief after the storms, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

An additional $17 million has been given in bilateral aid. The U.S. Agency for International Development has pledged $29 million in humanitarian assistance.

Haiti faced a long road to self-sufficiency even before Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike left their crisscrossing trails of destruction.

Once an agricultural dynamo, the country now imports 80% of its food, thanks in part to trade deals that allowed its markets to be flooded with U.S. products. When world food and fuel prices soared, millions of Haitians were left unable to afford even a bowl of rice a day.

Riots fueled by hunger forced the ouster of the prime minister and left at least six Haitians and a U.N. peacekeeper dead in April. Angry protesters tried to break down the gates of the presidential palace, chanting for Preval to step down.

With tear gas canisters exploding outside his office a day later, the embattled president promised to help farmers increase their yields.

But the floods washed away topsoil and bags of discounted fertilizer, and lawmakers did not approve Preval's new prime minister's cabinet and plan of government until after three of the four storms had struck.

"The hunger of the poor is a threat, and will continue to be a threat, to the happiness of the rich," Preval said Friday.

Preval called for trade liberalization "based on clear rules" that would allow Haitian farmers to compete, and a reconstruction project that would empower Haitians to take care of themselves.

Source: USAToday.Com

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