‘A decade of efforts’ needed for rebuilding

QUAKE-HIT Haiti will need at least a decade of painstaking reconstruction, aid chiefs and donor nations warned, as homeless, scarred survivors struggled yesterday to rebuild their lives.

Two weeks after the disaster which killed about 150,000 people and left a million homeless, fresh looting and chaotic food handouts underlined the grim conditions facing those who lived through the 7.0 magnitude quake.

“Right now, the needs of the people are survival and immediate recovery,” said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, who is director of operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Next comes the phase of long-term reconstruction, he told foreign media in Tokyo. “This is going to be more than 10 years of efforts.”

International powers meeting in Montreal to discuss aid and reconstruction for Haiti heard Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper deliver a similar timeframe.

“We must work to ensure that every resource committed, every relief worker, every vehicle, every dollar is used as effectively as possible,” he said.

Rescuers led by 20,000 US troops have struggled to get enough aid into the capital Port-au-Prince and flattened towns near the quake’s epicentre, stoking security fears.

In the flimsy patchwork of camps, people say they are hungry. No one seems to know where distribution points for food and water are located.

“They must begin by helping those who have lost their houses,” said Suze Jean-Francois, a 28-year-old gardener who leaves a makeshift encampment each day to scrounge for food, sometimes with no luck.

“The West has come to help us. It is extraordinary, but it will not last,” said Andre Muscadin, an evangelical pastor.

“Rather than give us a fish, teach us to catch fish.”

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said the world must hammer out a long-term strategy after meeting the Caribbean country’s immediate needs for food, water, shelter and health care.

“We are still in an emergency,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the meeting in Montreal.

“There is a terrible humanitarian crisis that we are dealing with. We don’t yet feed all of the people. We don’t yet have water for them.

“We have so many who have been grievously injured. Those who have received medical care, many of them have amputated limbs and there are no prosthetics. There are no places to sleep.”

Donor countries agreed to hold a full conference on aid to Haiti at the UN headquarters in New York in March.

Haiti’s President Rene Preval, in a statement, urged the world to urgently airlift 200,000 more tents and 36 million ready-to-eat packs before the rainy season starts in May.

At the presidential palace, a daily aid hand-out descended into chaos as a small team of Uruguayan UN peacekeepers were confronted by 4,000 desperately hungry Haitians.

“Whatever we do, it doesn’t matter — they are animals,” a UN trooper said as others sprayed pepper spray and fired rubber bullets into the air.

As the sun sets, looters appear. Shots ring out in the distance as shadowy figures flee, clutching bolts of fabric, soda bottles, pants — anything they can get hold of.

Bulldozers cleared corpse- filled houses elsewhere in the city centre, but hopes have faded of finding more miracle survivors in the rubble. The last, a man who survived for 11 days by drinking cola, was rescued on Saturday.

The United Nations said more than 235,000 Haitians have used free buses to flee the filth in Port-au-Prince for more hygienic camps outside the capital. Others have used private transport.

Health Minister Alex Larsen said that tents were being readied for 400,000 people at mini-villages that will initially hold 20,000, and in the long term accommodate about one million.

Meanwhile, a fresh planeload of 60 children landed in Paris to join their adoptive parents, bringing to about 100 the number to have arrived in France since the quake in its former colony.

In Lisbon, more than 50,000 people turned out on Monday at a fund-raising football match for quake survivors led by stars including Zinedine Zidane of France and Brazil’s Kaka.

More in this section


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox