Foreign ministers and aid groups leading the Haiti earthquake effort held their first conference today on how to channel aid into a country that has lost much of its already poor infrastructure.
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told the Montreal conference that his government needs to rely strongly on its partners but he asserted that Haiti was able to lead the rebuilding effort.
“Haitians continue to work in precarious conditions but it is in the position to assume the leadership expected of it by its people in order to relaunch the country on the path to reconstruction,” he said.
However, the Haitian official has previously acknowledged the government was facing serious legitimacy issues as people question whether it exists at all. The destruction of key government buildings has hampered the work of what was already a weak and inefficient state.
Mr Bellerive said while Haiti needs help from abroad, it needs to do more with less and work in a different fashion. He said in the short term they need to help people with water, food and housing.
“The people of Haiti, the Haitian community will need more and more and more in order to complete the task of reconstruction,” he said.
Mr Bellerive said Haiti’s government has set up six groups to deal with issues such as humanitarian aid, housing and security. He said each group is being led by a Haitian minister as well as an international party.
Haiti’s magnitude-7 earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people and left the poorest country in the Western hemisphere virtually without a functioning government. It wrecked the presidential palace, parliament, government ministries and the UN headquarters, among thousands of other structures.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told said that international donors and organisations had been mapping out a plan for Haiti development for months before the quake. She indicated this could be the basis for a revised plan now.
“I don’t want to start from scratch, but we have to recognise the changed challenges that we are now confronting,” she said.
Governments have pledged nearly $1bn (€1.14bn) in aid, including $575m (€659.78m) from the European Union’s 27 nations.
Today’s meeting came as a global army of aid workers was delivering more food into people’s hands in Haiti, but the efforts were still falling short.
The International Red Cross said there was a growing need to bring in heavy equipment to take down damaged buildings, some of which could collapse at the slightest aftershock.
Decisions will have to be made in Montreal about urban planning for the new Port-au-Prince, he said. “It’s going to require, minimum, a generation to rebuild Port-au-Prince. The Haitians understand that.”