UN, Haiti seek $2 billion to help in earthquake aftermath

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The U.S., European Union and others pledged $600 million in additional funds Wednesday to help hundreds of thousands struggling six months after a powerful earthquake struck Haiti’s southern region. The pledges at a conference by the United Nations, Haiti’s government failed to meet international demands for $2 billion in additional funds to aid the country after the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck the country last August. It killed an estimated 2,200 people and destroyed or damaged more than 130,000 homes and some 1,250 schools.

Amina Mohammed, a deputy U.N. secretary-general, called the $2 billion figure “daunting,” but said Haiti needs international support.

“We are aware that aid budgets are under pressure across the globe. Donor fatigue is also a reality. We have also heard concerns expressed about Haiti’s aid results. She said that this was not the right time to abandon Haiti.

Shortly after she spoke at the conference held at a hotel in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and also streamed online, the U.S. Agency for International Development pledged an additional $50 million, the European Union more than $30 million worth of grants and Canada nearly $20 million, among others.

Ariel Henry was Haiti’s prime Minister. He thanked all who showed solidarity after the earthquake, but stressed that much more needs to be done, particularly in rural areas.

“The government is doing all it can with the means it has,” he said, adding that nearly $350 million is needed to launch the reconstruction process. Thousands of Haitians, who were forced to flee their homes by the earthquake, are still living in temporary shelters constructed of metal and plastic sheets.

“We are not living like humans,” said Juste Joseph Jocelyn, a 39-year-old electrician who manages a camp that houses more than 150 people. Can you picture people getting up in the morning without drinking water? Even food.”

He said no local authorities have visited or helped them despite the camp being just a 10-minute drive from a main road. People have to travel miles just to obtain a bucket of water.

“We are on our own,” Jocelyn said.

Ariel’s administration estimates more than $1 billion is needed for the social sector, including housing, $400 million for education, $55 million for food security and $32 million for health needs. In addition, officials say $142 million is needed for transportation infrastructure, $41 million for agriculture and $11 million for water and sanitation.

Officials say 70% of schools in the area were destroyed, affecting 320,000 students.

Henry sought to assuage any concerns about the mismanagement of previous aid that poured in following a devastating magnitude 7.2 quake in 2010 that the government estimates killed between 200,000 and 300,000 people.

“My government has taken all measures to avoid a repetition of past errors,” he said.

Henry is facing the challenge of helping Haiti recover from the recent earthquake and also from the assassination in July by President Jovenel Moise. This has exacerbated political instability. Haiti is also experiencing a rise in violence, gang-related kidnappings and skyrocketing inflation.

On Wednesday morning, thousands marched in the streets demanding raises. Currently, they make 500 gourdes ($5) for nine hours of work and are seeking a minimum of 1,500 gourdes ($15) a day.

Protesters threw rocks and tried to set a government building on fire as they clashed with police, who fired bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Jean Robert Jean Louis said, “I’m not sure how I can continue to live with the amount of money that I get.”

The 36-year-old factory worker said he can barely afford to make it to work because of inflation. Because of fighting between rival gangs, he said that he must walk many miles just to get the bus to his home. Officials said that the violence made it difficult for volunteers and aid to reach south Haiti.

Mohammed noted that Haiti is “again at crossroads.” … We have an immediate opportunity to break out of the cycle of crises that has constrained Haiti’s development for so long.”

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Associated Press writer Evens Sanon reported this story in Port-au-Prince and AP writer Danica Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. This report was contributed by Pierre-Richard Luxama, an AP journalist in Les Cayes (Haiti).

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