U.S. TO PROVIDE $120M TO HAITI
(Miami Herald) - By Jacqueline Charles
The United States will provide $120 million for education, rubble removal and housing in earthquake-shattered Haiti, as well as help rebuild the state university hospital in Port-au-Prince, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.
Cheryl Mills, who was on a conference call of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission in Port-au-Prince, said the funds will be placed in a trust fund managed by the World Bank.
The United States has been among the donor nations that have been criticized for their slow response to provide more than $5.3 billion in promised aid to help Haiti rebuild following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. The quake left an estimated 300,000 dead and 1.5 million people homeless.
During the Wednesday meeting of the Recovery Commission, 18 projects valued at $777 million were approved. They included disaster mitigation in the southern part of the country, cash grants to help rebuild 5,000 homes, back-to-school funds to assist 250,000 children, and assistance to help 50,000 girls and women who are victims of violence.
All told, the projects would aid more than a million Haitians.
But funding gaps remain, demonstrating the ongoing problem of trying to get donor nations to fulfill their pledges. Of the $777 million of projects approved, only $458 million worth are actually funded.
Still, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who serves as co-chair of the commission, said disbursements by foreign donors have increased from 18 to 30 percent in recent weeks.
``That is a pretty good jump in less than two months,'' he said. ``I am grateful for that, but there is still quite a number of projects still without funding from our last meeting.''
The United States wants $65 million of the funds it will release to go for housing in neighborhoods where quake victims have an opportunity to return home, $25 million for rubble removal and $10 million for an education program being promoted by the Inter-American Development Bank. The IDB is seeking a complete overhaul of Haiti's dysfunctional education system.
The U.S. also agreed to rebuild the quake-damaged General University public hospital in Port-au-Prince along with France and signed an agreement to be an investor in an industrial park near the capital that will potentially create 18,000 jobs.
The projects approved by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission were chosen from among 80 that were submitted. They are in line with the Haitian government's priorities, Haitian Prime Minister and Commission co-chair Jean-Max Bellerive said.
Commission members debated the merits of some of the projects and the need for credit to help small and medium-sized business owners. They also received a report on a working group setting up an anti-corruption office to ensure that donor funds are spent properly.
Bellerive said he would like to see future meetings focus on a strategy for rebuilding Haiti.
Recent rains and floods that continue to lash vulnerable tent cities have reminded Haitians and donors just how vulnerable the country remains almost nine months after the quake. Several Haitians were killed after trees fell on their tents, and thousands of tents were destroyed.
Clinton called on commission members to step up efforts to help provide relief for those still living under tents and tarps.
``The recent storms that passed through Haiti last week and the damage they did, especially in the camps, remind us that all of us have to work faster, better, smarter to get these resources out to the people who are still without shelter and access to basic services,'' said Clinton, who spoke from Port-au-Prince where the commission held its meeting via telephone with members from around the globe.
Before the meeting, Clinton visited the Petionville golf club, where a violent storm destroyed a hospital, pharmacy, many medical supplies and tents last month.
The camp, which houses 55,000 quake victims, is managed by Hollywood actor Sean Penn through his J/P Haitian Relief Organization. On Wednesday, the Clinton Foundation announced it will provide $500,000 in bridge funding to allow the organization to continue to manage the camp.