International aid helped Haiti, but a lot more is needed | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 21.04.2010
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International aid helped Haiti, but a lot more is needed

Due to a massive global help effort, the situation in Haiti has stabilized 100 days after a devastating earthquake ravaged the country. But even the pledged $10 billion will not be enough to rebuild Haiti.

A refugee in a camp installed in the golf course of Petion Ville Club, in Port-au-Prince in January 2010

Instead of provisional tent camps, aid organizations now plan to build light homes

The praise for the Haiti international donors' conference held a few weeks back, which raised $10 billion (seven billion euros) in long-term aid committments and far exceeded expectations, was unanimous.

At a press conference after the meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the world had shown its "solidarity with Haiti and its people," adding that Haitian President Rene Preval's "rendezvous with history has come to pass."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded less melodramatic, but equally pleased when she said that "this signals a new level of global commitment, coordination, and cooperation." And the Haitian government considered the international support "testimony that Haiti is not alone."

Yet, despite the unprecedented level of aid and donations from around the world, the money pledged at the conference in New York simply won't be enough to rebuild the country.

"By no means," says Joerg Kaiser, the project officer for Haiti at Caritas International, a relief organisation funded by Germany's Catholic Church.

"It sounds like a lot of money, but when we see what has been destroyed by the earthquake, and also what existed before the earthquake, I have to say that this money will never be enough," he told Deutsche Welle.

Jean Robert Saget, Haiti's ambassador to Germany, agrees: "This will definitely not be enough. Like the US vice president said recently, if you want to make Haiti really fit for the future, you need around $34 billion. The $10 billion pledges are the beginning of a process and we hope that this will enable a decent start."

Help available for the needy

Both Kaiser and Saget travelled to Haiti after the January 12 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and devastated a nation that even before the disaster ranked among the poorest countries in the world. They spent most of February there and reported that, since the chaotic first weeks, the situation had improved recently and that the most urgent needs of the survivors have been met.

"I would say that almost all people who need help get help," said Kaiser. His organisation, Caritas, still distributes food and non-food items in Haiti, but because of the improved situation plans to phase out those distributions by the end of the month. Then the focus of the mission will shift from basic aid to reconstruction efforts.

Bulldozers begin demolition work at the earthquake damaged presidential palace in Port-au-Prince in April 2010

Building a new Haiti, not rebuilding it, is the goal of international helpers

"We are looking into what we call semi-permanent shelter - light houses that serve for a couple of years until real houses can be built. And we are rebuilding homes for elderly and handicapped people and we still run two medical centers," he said.

To oversee those projects and the roughly 20 million euros it collected through donations, Caritas will increase its team of international experts from two to five and maintain its national staff of around 25 people.

Building a new Haiti

The experts and their help will be needed for a long time to come. Analysts predict that it will take up to 10 years to rebuild Haiti. But rebuild is actually the wrong word to describe what is planned, says Kaiser.

"I do want to say that we do not want to rebuild Haiti. According to all the sources that I have heard, nobody wants to rebuild what was there before, but everybody is talking about building a new Haiti. If you see that a huge part of the population was living in slums in Port-au-Prince, that is a situation that was unbearable, and that will be changed."

To achieve that goal, Haiti's ambassador in Berlin hopes that the German government, which pledged 55 million euros, will increase its support for his country.

A woman carries blankets distributed by the Red Cross in March 2010.

More than one million people have lost their homes due to the earthquake

"I personally would have wished that Germany would get more involved," says Saget. "We have registered that France has gotten very involved, but that Germany has hesitated a bit. But it's not too late and we are in talks with the authorities and hope that Germany will play a bigger role."

Joerg Kaiser believes that the decision by the German government to limit its initial contributions was right. He argues that there is already so much money pouring into the country that the first priority must be to allocate and distribute the huge amount of finanical aid properly.

"I would say that the 55 million is enough. Let's wait some time, let's wait what's going to happen, and let's wait where the needs will show up in half a year or a year. Then it's easier to say how much more money will be needed and for what."

Author: Michael Knigge
Editor: Rob Mudge

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