Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti Emergency Summit Planned by UN to Help Coordinate Aid

By Nicole Gaouette and Ben Farey

(Bloomberg) - The United Nations will convene an emergency summit of 20 nations on Jan. 25 to coordinate aid for earthquake-stricken Haiti.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be among the delegates attending the meeting in Montreal to discuss long-term reconstruction and arrangements for a donor conference to be held in March, the UN said in a statement.

The world body is continuing its search-and-rescue effort after Haiti’s government ended its hunt for victims of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ravaged the Caribbean nation, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“We are very, very focused on search and rescue,” UN spokeswoman Choi Soung-ah said in a telephone interview from New York today. “At the same time, relief efforts are fully activated.” In a separate telephone interview, Choi said that “today is kind of quiet” in Haiti.

More than 111,000 people are confirmed dead, the UN said in a statement today. Another 609,000 are without shelter in the Port-au-Prince area, the UN said yesterday, citing the government. The city is Haiti’s capital and home to more than 2 million people.

The Haitian government ended its search for victims, “We still hope that we’ll be able to find people alive,” Nick Birnback, a spokesman for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the UN, said in a telephone interview. “The reality is that as the days go by the hope grows dimmer.”

Aid Meeting

Other nations that may attend the “Friends of Haiti” meeting in Montreal include Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, France and Japan. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia said they will boycott the meeting to protest the U.S. military’s presence in the Caribbean, according to the German news service Deutsche Press Agentur.

Relief efforts Port-au-Prince and other areas are increasing. More than 130,000 people have taken advantage of the government’s offer of free transportation to cities in the north, south and west, the UN said.

“It’s still a tenuous situation,” Birnback said. “A large number of people in Port-au-Prince are sleeping rough on the streets.”

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, on Jan. 12, destroying about a third of the buildings in Port-au-Prince, as well as the city’s seaport and its water and sewage systems. There have been as many as 50 aftershocks, Birnback said.

Urgent Need

“Despite all our best efforts, too many people have not received the assistance they urgently need,” UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly in New York yesterday. “I urge member states to make additional contributions.”

Today, more than 1,000 mourners gathered for the funeral for the capital’s archbishop, Joseph Serge Miot, the Associated Press reported. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was scheduled to attend the funeral after traveling to Haiti today accompanied by Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the U.S. State Department.

Fundraising Telethon

Musicians including Madonna, Beyonce, Bono and Bruce Springsteen were among celebrities who participated in a fundraising telethon yesterday. The telethon may raise more than $166 million, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Actor George Clooney gave $1 million during the “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon, Reuters reported, citing his spokesman. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio signed a check for the same amount to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which was started by former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, BBC said.

U.S. taxpayers can deduct donations for Haiti relief on their 2009 tax returns under legislation signed by President Barack Obama yesterday.

The Inter-American Development Bank, which supports economic development in the Caribbean, is considering a plan to alleviate Haiti’s $441 million in debt to the bank, the group said in a statement yesterday.

--With assistance from Catherine Dodge and Dan Hart in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Galen Meyer

To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Ben Farey in London at or Nicole Gaouette in Washington at +202 624 1924 or

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ann Hughey in Washington at +202-624-1922 or

Source: BusinessWeek

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