HAITI News Items: Preval to Meet with Obama, Clinton Urges Investment, Bill to Cancel Debt, Donors’ Conf. 3/31

Posted on March 5, 2010

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Obama, Haitian president to meet next week

(AP) – 3 hours ago

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will meet with the president of earthquake-ravaged Haiti next week at the White House.

The White House says Obama and President Rene Preval will meet on Wednesday before Obama visits St. Louis. The White House announced the schedule on Friday.

A Jan. 12 earthquake wrecked Haiti and killed an estimated 200,000 people. The U.S. has played an active role in rebuilding the country, with former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton leading the United States’ fundraising efforts to help the Caribbean nation.

 

Clinton Urges Latin America to Cut Tariffs, Invest in Haiti
March 04, 2010, 3:07 PM EST 
By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan

March 4 (Bloomberg) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Latin American nations to follow the U.S. and Canada by investing in Haiti and offering the country preferential trade terms to speed its recovery from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

“Together we can encourage investment and increase demand for Haitian products — a critical piece of Haiti’s long-term recovery,” Clinton told trade, economy and foreign ministers from across Latin America. They were gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica, to discuss expanding market access for populations that haven’t benefitted from globalized trade.

Clinton said the U.S. has extended its most favorable tariffs and terms to Haitian textiles and apparel while the U.S. Congress is considering bills that may offer Haitian producers even more help. Canada, meanwhile, allows Haitian goods to enter duty-free, she told a meeting of Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas, a group composed of 17 Western Hemisphere governments and multilateral organizations.

Haiti’s earthquake may have claimed as many as 300,000 lives, and the cost of rebuilding the hemisphere’s poorest country may reach $13.9 billion, making the magnitude 7.0 temblor the worst natural disaster suffered by any country relative to the size of its economy, according to the Inter- American Development Bank. The country is also facing a “major food crisis,” the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization said last month.

Clinton praised free trade agreements and called for more of them, while recognizing that the benefits of globalization haven’t reached all communities.

Promoting Growth

“We have worked to promote growth and create jobs through sound fiscal policies, bilateral trade agreements, multilateral pacts” including the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and through the Inter-American Development Bank, she said. “But for too many people in too many places — including the United States — opportunity is limited or fleeting.”

Clinton outlined a six-point U.S. plan to promote economic and social opportunity throughout Latin America for small business people, farmers, women, indigenous populations and other vulnerable groups. The U.S. will promote the creation of small-business development centers, work with Latin America to modernize laws on lending, microcredit and customs, promote English-language training, support women entrepreneurs and help small- and medium-sized businesses decrease their water and energy use.

“It is vital that we spread the benefits of economic growth and integration to more people in more places,” Clinton said.

–Editors: Fred Strasser, Brendan Walsh

Bill To Cancel Haiti’s Debt Clears House Hurdle

First Posted: 03- 4-10 05:59 PM   |   Updated: 03- 5-10 01:05 AM

A House subcommittee approved a measure on Thursday to press major international financial institutions to completely cancel all debts owed by Haiti, where a major earthquake devastated what little capacity Haiti had to pay the debts back.

The International Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee approved the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act, introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), which also aims to encourage direct assistance in the form of grants from those institutions, rather than loans.

The bill would require the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and other institutions to use the voice, vote, and influence of the U.S. to accomplish the debt forgiveness. Waters has been a longtime champion of debt-relief for Haiti.

“The moral case for canceling Haiti’s debt is clear,” said Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, “and the Committee stands prepared to continue to work with the Administration to authorize a swift and substantial U.S. commitment to comprehensive multilateral debt cancellation for Haiti.”

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, owes $828 million to multilateral development institutions, according to the Department of the Treasury, including $447 million to the IDB, $284 million to the IMF, $39 million to the World Bank and $58 million to the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The idea that Haiti owes anybody for anything is a striking one considering the nation’s history.

“Haiti faces enormous challenges now, and the burden of paying off foreign debt would prevent the nation from taking necessary steps to help its people at this perilous time,” said Waters. “I introduced H.R. 4573 so that Haiti can use its limited resources to make both immediate and long-term investments in essential humanitarian relief, reconstruction and development efforts.”

Conference to target resource pledges for Haiti
Washington DC, March 5, 2010
Narayan Lakshman

A ministerial conference on supporting post-disaster recovery in Haiti, will be held on March 31 in New York City, the Department of State officially confirmed.

The United States and the United Nations will co-host the conference in cooperation with the Government of Haiti and with the support of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France and Spain.

The conference, titled “International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti” will be convened at the U.N. in New York on March 31.

“The goal of the conference is to mobilize international support for the development needs of Haiti to begin to lay the foundation for Haiti’s long-term recovery,” according to a press statement today.

Outlining the enormity of the challenges faced by the government of Haiti following the devastating earthquake of January 12, the Department of State communiqué said there was a need for a “sustained and substantial commitment from the international community, in support of the government and people of Haiti.

Underscoring the importance of Haiti’s own role in the process it was made clear that at the conference Haiti would present its vision for its own future and international organisations would assist. The conference would also focus significantly on obtaining resource pledges from donor countries, international organizations, and other partners.

Touching on U.S. commitment towards staying involved in the post-disaster reconstruction process Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, said, “This is a long-term commitment, and if we are to realize the true meaning of community, we must all prepare to do what is necessary to help Haiti recover”.

For this reason the United States will be a key participant in organizing the March 31 donors conference for Haiti, Ms. Brimmer added. She said the U.S. intended to follow through on President Obama words when he said, “the United States will be there with the Haitian government and the United Nations every step of the way”.
Canada defense minister to visit Haiti

(AFP) – 31 minutes ago

OTTAWA — Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay will visit Canadian troops involved in aid efforts in Haiti on Saturday and Sunday, the military announced on Friday.

MacKay will speak with personnel aboard HMCS Athabaskan anchored off the coast of Leogane, as well as in medical facilities, temporary accommodation camps and at the Canadian embassy.

Canada has more than 1,500 troops on the ground, MacKay’s spokesman Jay Paxton said.

MacKay’s trip comes just prior to Governor General Michaelle Jean’s working visit on Monday, and after Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured relief efforts in February.

Forty-two Canadians died in the January quake and 33 remain unaccounted for.

News
American Forces Press

U.S. Military’s Medical Role in Haiti Declines

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2010 – It’s been a week since the last Haitian patient was treated aboard the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, as the need for immediate medical attention is declining two months after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the island nation, the Joint Task Force-Haiti surgeon said.

“The Comfort currently has no Haitian patients aboard,” Army Col. (Dr.) Jennifer Menetrez told bloggers yesterday during a DoDLive bloggers roundtable. “The last patient was discharged from the Comfort on Feb. 27.”

The hospital beds and hallways of the Comfort are now empty of Haitian patients, Menetrez said. Meanwhile, she said, the Comfort remains on station to provide any follow-on care as needed by the Haitian government.

“Over the last 10 days, we’ve seen over a 65 percent reduction in patients onboard the [Comfort] as they have been appropriately transferred to local hospitals for follow-on care,” she added.

This follow-on care is being supported by the numerous mobile and on-site clinics that have been set up to give continued treatment to victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

“To date, there are 130 mobile clinics and 156 on-site clinics,” Menetrez said. “The collaboration between military, government of Haiti and [U.S. Agency for International Development] continues to be wonderful. Collaboration between all parties has been a milestone of a unified response through a challenging event.”

Since the Comfort arrived on station, she said, U.S. military medical personnel have provided care to more than 8,600 Haitian residents.

“Of the 8,600 patients seen, the U.S. military surgeons performed close to 1,000 surgeries, primary care physicians conducted over 7,200 outpatient visits and oversaw the care of 1,300 for post surgical care within the hospital wards,” Menetrez said.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the Defense Media Activity’s Emerging Media Directorate)

UN sets up human rights group to look into situation of Haiti’s disabled

 
5 March 2010 – A working group comprising United Nations experts has been created to look into the situation of Haitians with disabilities, who have been disproportionately affected by January’s catastrophic earthquake.

Today’s announcement comes after a group of UN human rights experts last month appealed for the needs of the disabled in Haiti to be included in the relief, recovery and reconstruction processes following the magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

The 12 January quake killed up to 200,000 people, injured many others and left one third of the country’s nine million people in need of aid.

The decision to set up the new working group was made by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during its recent meeting in Geneva from 22 to 26 February.

It underscored that under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “States are to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and natural disaster like the occurrence of this earthquake.”

The new body will also look into the situation of people with disabilities in other countries affected by devastating natural disasters, including Chile, where it is estimated that 2 million people were impacted by last Saturday’s magnitude-8.8 quake.

Early last month, the Committee stressed in a news release that persons with disabilities must not become “the forgotten ones” during the emergency response and the reconstruction of Haiti.

Its current chairperson, Mohammed Al-Tarawneh, said that “while relief workers are struggling to provide aid to the people of Haiti and while the situation remains difficult for everyone, persons with disabilities are particularly affected by the crisis,” especially if their caregivers have been killed or injured.

The 12-member Committee, tasked with monitoring the Convention, urged Haiti to ensure that persons with disabilities fully participate in the decision-making process regarding social and economic reconstruction and that their long-term development needs be taken into account.

The Convention, which entered into force in May 2008 and has so far been endorsed by 144 countries, is the culmination of years of global efforts to ensure that the rights of the world’s estimated 650 million persons with disabilities are guaranteed and protected.

It asserts the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported today that its partners are handing out coupons for the next round of food distribution – including rice, beans and salt – for some 2 million people, set to kick off tomorrow in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The agency and its partners have already provided food for some 4.3 million people since the earthquake.

Although Haiti’s rainy season typically starts in April and peaks in May, early floods have already hit the country’s south, affecting 4,000 families and killing 7,100 heads of cattle, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

The Office warned that with the main planting season set to kick off this month, only 12 per cent of the agricultural funds appealed for have been provided. It cautioned that progress made in improving food security since the string of hurricanes in 2008 could be reversed without immediate financial support for the purchase of seeds, tools and other supplies.

The Government has reported that 1.3 million people are still living in spontaneous settlements, while over 600,000 others have fled the hard-hit capital for other regions.

OCHA said that the security situation remains stable in Haiti, and that emergency shelter, sanitation and food continue to be among the top needs.