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More help for Haiti - Five-year assistance programme proposed

Published:Wednesday | January 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dominican Republic (CMC):

A US$10 billion five-year assistance programme has been proposed to support Haiti's recovery from the powerful earthquake that virtually flattened the country's capital and surrounding areas, last week.

Host president, Leonel Fernandez, who proposed the fund, said Haiti would need an integral national development plan of about US$2 billion annually.

"We'd be talking about a five-year programme of some $10 billion," Fernandez told the international donors' meeting.

He said that debt forgiveness should form part of the assistance programme to Haiti, the only French-speaking member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Fernandez said he also proposed to host an international donors' conference in April to coordinate contributions and strategies for Haiti's recovery.

Impassioned plea for help

Earlier on Monday, President René Préval made an impassioned plea for assistance, telling donors that Haiti needed more than just a cure for the wounds caused by the powerful quake.

"We must develop the economy, agriculture, education and health; and reinforce the democratic institutions," he said.

Last Tuesday, the country was hit by a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0, leveling various buildings, including the Presidential Palace, and leaving an estimated 100,000 people dead.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said that CARICOM could play a leading role in securing much-needed financial and technical assistance to his earthquake-battered country in the years ahead.

"They can do a lot. First we want technical assistance ... it is not only money. They can also be our ambassadors outside because they can travel and explain the situation in Haiti," Bellerive told the Caribbean Media Corporation.

He said the assistance required by his devastated country will not only be "for today or next week, it will be for months and years to come".

"We count on our CARICOM friends to be our ambassadors, to help us convince the world that we need strong help," he said, adding that the country was indeed grateful for the quick response of the CARICOM leaders to its plight.

The European Union (EU) pledged over €400 million (US$575 million) in immediate and long-term aid to Haiti on Monday.

President of the EU, Herman Van Rompuy, said that a summit scheduled for February 11 would discuss Europe's reaction to the quake.

"Reconstruction efforts and EU support for the proposed international conference for Haiti will be part of our discussion," Van Rompuy said in a statement.

Canada will host an emergency meeting of countries that are leading the rescue effort in Haiti, as world leaders struggle to craft a longer-term plan for rebuilding the earthquake-ravaged country.

Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said that the meeting on Monday in Montreal will also be attended by the United Nations.