Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Preval Says, 'Haiti Priority Is Shelter for 1 Million'

By Adriana Brasileiro and Bill Faries

(Bloomberg) -- Haitian President Rene Preval said his government’s most urgent task is finding shelter for 1 million people displaced by the country’s Jan. 12 earthquake.

“The first priority was to save people who were trapped, people who were hurt,” Preval said today in an interview on the lawn behind the ruins of the presidential palace in Port-au- Prince. “Now we need to help about 1 million people who are on the streets find shelter.”

Preval said the government is working with international aid organizations and the United Nations on plans for long-term housing. Providing tents to displaced people is a “short-term” solution with the hurricane season approaching, Preval said, adding that procuring as many as 200,000 tents is proving difficult.

The cost of rebuilding the hemisphere’s poorest country may reach $13.9 billion, making the magnitude 7.0 temblor the worst natural disaster suffered by any country relative to the size of its economy, the Inter-American Development Bank said yesterday. The country is also facing a “major food crisis” the Rome- based Food and Agriculture Organization said last week.

The Haitian quake killed about 230,000 people in the country of 9.6 million and destroyed a third of the buildings in the capital, according to government data. If the death toll is accurate, the quake will have surpassed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 226,000 people in 12 countries.

The disaster was “the most destructive event a country has ever experienced when measured in terms of the number of people killed as a share of the country’s population,” the IDB said.

The IDB report, citing a separate study by one of its authors, also stressed that such disasters tend to have a lasting impact on economies, keeping growth about 30 percent below what it would have been even 10 years later.

The UN has received about $619 million in donations for Haiti’s recovery as of Feb. 15, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said on its Web site.

To contact the reporters on this story: Adriana Brasileiro in Port-au-Prince at; Bill Faries in Buenos Aires at

Source: Bloomberg

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