Saturday, September 27, 2008

Haiti Set Back 'Years' By Hurricane

Recent hurricanes and storms have devastated Haiti, killing hundreds of people and destroying years of economic progress in the hemisphere's poorest nation, President Rene Preval said on Friday.

He spoke after officials in Haiti reported that more than 800 people were killed when tropical storms Fay and Hanna and hurricanes Gustav and Ike hammered the impoverished Caribbean country in the space of just a few weeks.

The regional representative of the Red Cross in Haiti's storm-ravaged northern port of Gonaives, Daniel Dupiton, told Reuters 520 bodies had been discovered in that city alone.

At least 283 others were killed elsewhere in Haiti, which has been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster left by the storms, officials said.

"The damage caused by the passage of these four successive hurricanes in less than two months has set Haiti back several years," Preval told the UN General Assembly in New York.

The UN says Haiti's government and its mission have been left reeling by the scale of the disaster in a country where most people live on less than $2 (NZD$2.90) a day.

The crisis threatens Preval's efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and stability in Haiti, which has been trying to pull itself out of a downward spiral as it struggles with rising world food and oil prices.

Deadly riots sparked by a dramatic spike in food prices struck the country in April and helped topple the government.

The UN has appealed for $108 million (NZD$157.5 million) in aid for Haiti and Preval urged more longer-term reconstruction efforts beyond immediate food and disaster relief.

"We have to break this paradigm of charity in our approach to international cooperation ... because charity has never helped any country to get out of underdevelopment," he said.

UN officials say about 800,000 people are in dire need of help because of the recent storms, which have caused more than $200 million (NZD$291.7 million) in damage to the farming sector.

Haiti may have lost 3 to 4 percentage points of gross domestic product after the storms, which cut a swathe of devastation across a country denuded of forest because of logging and wood-burning to produce charcoal for fuel.

Source: Tvnz.Co.Nz

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