Saturday, March 6, 2010

Haiti PM: Haitians Must Lead

Appeals to diaspora in Quebec Montreal hosts two-day conference on post-quake reconstruction plans

Haitian PM Jean-Max Bellerive told delegates that conferences like the one in Montreal can help build a stronger Haiti.

The plan to rebuild Haiti must be prepared by Haitians for Haitians, the prime minister of the devastated country said yesterday.

"And it must be executed and evaluated by Haitians as well," Jean-Max Bellerive told a hall at École Polytechnique packed with members of Haiti's diaspora, who gathered for two days of brainstorming on how to pull the battered Caribbean nation from the ashes.

The challenges are enormous, with 90 per cent of the population out of work, thousands living on the street with little or no food or water, and poor sanitation. Eighty per cent of the buildings in the capital of Port-au-Prince, including the 160-year-old palace, government buildings and banks, have been destroyed.

"Two months after the earthquake, I look into Haitians' eyes and see the strength I recognize," Bellerive said. "We have to maintain that hope that is so fragile.

"These meetings can help build a stronger Haiti in which we can have a basic level of services to which all Haitians have a right." No reconstruction can take place without the diaspora, he said, which numbers about 130,000 in Quebec. Among them are well-trained professionals whose expertise is desperately needed in Haiti.

Earlier yesterday, the second day of the two-day conference, participants made suggestions about how to tackle the challenges ahead.

Robert Letendre, of CECI, a Montreal-based development organization, said a percentage of the billions of dollars raised should be earmarked to establish a Haitian government body to co-ordinate the work of non-governmental organizations flooding into the country.

"There is an obligation not to be tied up with bureaucracy and to delegate people who can make decisions," he said.

In an interview, Letendre pointed out that little has been learned since the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia.

"For example, there were 13 different NGOs in Banda Aceh building houses," he said.

He said that NGOs, who were the recipients of the outpouring of Canadians' generosity after the Jan. 12 quake, are under public pressure to put the money to good use right away.

"But it needs co-ordination and that co-ordination needs to be funded," he said. "Now is not the time to create study groups, it's time to act." Concerns were also raised about the lack of support available for the few lucky Haitians who have been able to leave their native country and arrive here.

"The Canadian and Quebec governments have said there are measures in place, but there aren't," said Vivian Barbot, vice-president of the Bloc Québécois. "We have to put pressure on the governments to do something about that because it's an emergency now." People arrive here, traumatized, with only the clothes on their backs and are given emergency funds for only a few weeks.

One woman, six months pregnant, said she and her family had no money for food and were told by Sun Youth they couldn't use the food bank until mid-month. Carmine Nazaire, her husband and 3-year-old daughter have been living in one room of a friend's apartment, but don't have beds.

Marc Gosselin, co-ordinator for public works for the town of St. Calixte, north of Montreal, suggested twinning Quebec families with newly arrived Haitian families, which number about 30.

The suggestion brought loud applause from the audience.

Source: MontrealGazette

No comments:

Post a Comment