HAITI COMMISSION EARMARKS $1.6 BLN FOR RECOVERY
(Reuters) - By Joseph Guyler Delva
* Post-quake projects target farming, health, education
* Housing, debris removal also among the priorities
PORT-AU-PRINCE - A special recovery commission announced more than $1.6 billion in projects to rebuild earthquake-ravaged Haiti on Tuesday, including a $200 million plan to create 50,000 new jobs in agriculture.
The projects, which also included programs to help rebuild Haiti's shattered health and education sectors, were announced at a meeting of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) in the capital Port-au-Prince, officials said.
The commission, co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti, and by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, is tasked with determining which reconstruction projects are to receive backing from multibillion-dollar funding pledged by foreign donors.
Following the devastating Jan. 12 quake that killed up to 300,000 people in the impoverished Caribbean state, foreign governments, multilateral bodies and nongovernmental groups from around the world in March pledged $9.9 billion for Haiti's reconstruction, $5.3 billion for the next two years alone.
For the 29 project proposals unveiled on Tuesday totaling more than $1.6 billion, nearly $1 billion in funding had already been committed, commission officials said.
Fully-funded projects included a $200 million agricultural development program that will increase overall farm income in targeted areas and create more than 50,000 sustainable jobs.
This was part of an strategy that hopes to decongest the wrecked Haitian capital, which is still crowded with around 1.5 million quake survivors living in tent and tarpaulin camps, by developing other economic poles outside the city.
Other key plans approved included a rubble removal program by U.N. agencies in the capital, a back-to-school program in the quake-hit educational sector and a project to build a teaching hospital to train Haitian doctors and health staff.
"The government of Haiti will not rest until we have settled the people displaced by the earthquake and rebuilt the infrastructure necessary to create jobs, provide adequate education and begin building a new future for all Haitians," Prime Minister Bellerive said.
"The projects presented to the IHRC during this Board meeting are a very important step forward in meeting these goals," he added.
With the peak of the hurricane season approaching, the international aid community has faced criticism that it has not moved quickly enough to get the hundreds of thousands of quake homeless into more secure, permanent shelters.
But U.N and other aid operation leaders have defended their work since the quake, saying they succeeded in delivering food, health and other care to the huge number of victims in the face of massive logistical challenges posed by operating in the wrecked capital city of the poorest state in the Americas.
Specific goals set by the Haitian government on Tuesday to be reached by November were in the priority areas of housing, education, debris removal, disaster preparedness, health and agriculture. They included the clearing of one million cubic meters of rubble in Port-au-Prince, and the construction of cyclone shelters for 400,000 to 500,000 people.
Aid workers fear that if a major hurricane strikes Haiti, this could cause another humanitarian catastrophe.